Tag Archives: day lily

Yellow day lily soup

June has been an extraordinary month in Aberdeen. We have been living in an almost permanent gloom – overcast, foggy, drizzly, dreich and occasionally torrential. When the cloud base rises above the rooftops it counts as a good day. We read of drought on the west coast – whisky distilleries having to suspend production for lack of water – and grit our teeth. That’s not the deal: they get the scenery and we get the drier weather.

All this dampness is not without its consequences in the forest garden. Anything that needs sun to bring it on is looking bereft and the snails are having a field day. It’s also creating an unexpected glut of yellow day lily (Hemerocallis lilioasphodelus) flowers. Usually any unused flowers dry on the plant and can be gathered for later use.

Yellow day lily (in the dry)

In this Month of Gloom, however, nothing is drying whatsoever, so we’re having to use the day lilies as they are produced. The result is that we’re eating lots of miso soup: partly no doubt because it’s salty comfort food but mostly because it’s a great way to use the flowers. Here’s the recipe from last night’s soup, which in no way needs to be followed exactly. In general, day lily flowers will also add flavour, colour and thickness to any soup you like.


  • Oil for frying
  • 2 small onions, finely chopped
  • 1 garlic scape (immature flowering stem), finely chopped
  • 1 potato, chopped
  • 1 piece celeriac, chopped
  • 2 fresh shiitake mushrooms, chopped
  • 200g yellow day lily flowers, chopped
  • 1 litre stock
  • 1 handful dulse (seaweed)
  • 3 heads sweet cicely seeds
  • 3 courgette flowers
  • 2 very generous teaspoonfuls of miso

Fry the onion in a pan for a couple of minutes, then add the garlic and fry until soft. Throw in the potato, celeriac and mushrooms and fry a little more, stirring occasionally. Add the lily flowers and fry until wilted. The add the stock and dulse and simmer for about 10 minutes. Use whatever stock you may have left over from other dishes but it’s important not to use a salty stock or stock cube as there is more than enough salt in the miso. Water will do fine as a substitute. Near the end add the sweet cicely seeds and courgette flowers. Once the soup it is cooked, remove the pan from the heat. Put the miso in a cup and stir it to a liquid with some cold water, then stir the lot into the soup. Serve as soon as possible.

This recipe can also be made with larger day lily flowers (Hemerocallis fulva), in which case it is a good idea to chop them roughly before adding. They wilt but don’t disintegrate, which can make for very messy eating when they’re in a soup!

Day lilies again

day lily

The next species in the day lily succession is now in production. In June I was using yellow day lily (Hemerocallis lilioasphodelus). Now it’s the turn of Hemerocallis fulva, the show-off of the day lily genus, with hundreds of different varieties and the largest, most spectacular flowers. The varieties out at the moment include Yellow Moonlight (above), Whichford, Burning Daylight and the unknown variety below.

The mysterious thing about day lilies is that they are usually described as a salad species. The more I use them, the more I am sure they were really made for cooking. The graceful and abundant yellow day lilies mostly went into soups and stir fries: the chunky flowers of H fulva open up other possibilities. Last night I tried frying up a batch of Burning Daylight. After about 5 minutes I tried some: the sugars in the petals had caramelised, giving a rich, sweet complex flavour, and the odd aftertaste that I find with the raw flowers had gone. The fact that they were now laden with oil probably did no harm either. It makes me wonder what they are like frittered or tempura’d like courgette flowers. If any of you gourmets out there would like to try it, please let me know the results.

day lily

Yellow day lily

Yellow day lily

Yellow day lily

The yellow day lilies (Hemerocallis lilioasphodelus) are in full bloom at the moment. The day lilies (Hemerocallis) are a very useful group. Some have edible tubers but the flowers are the stars. They go well (and pretty spectacularly) in salads, but I like the taste best in stir fries or soups. The Chinese use them to thicken soups and stews: you can see big bags of ‘lily flowers’ in Chinese supermarkets (but beware, some true lilies are poisonous – the perils of common names). They keep this property when dried, which they do pretty well themselves on the plant. Once dry they keep forever.

They yellow day lilies are always the first into flower with me: if you grow a range of species and varieties you can have fresh flowers for two or three months.