Lilies forum: Cooking with Lilies

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Name: Rick R.
near Minneapolis, MN zone 4a
I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Garden Sages The WITWIT Badge Garden Photography Region: Minnesota Plant Identifier
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Leftwood
Nov 27, 2012 10:42 PM CST
Not to be confused with Daylilies, Lily of the Valley, Amazon Lily, Calla lily, Rain Lilies or the plethora of other lily imposters, this is about cooking with true lilies that are members of the Lilium genus.

I've mentioned before on this forum that I eat lily bulbs. Not exactly a popular past time with members here, as I recall. Has anyone been adventurous lately (or since then)? I think the subject deserves its own thread even though entries might be few, and Della, you have prompted me to begin one. nodding

First, one can't just go out to any flower garden and dig lily bulbs to eat. Most importantly, how has that garden been cared for? Have any sorts of pesticides been used? Lilies are not tested as edible products. Just because you use Sevin (for instance) on some vegetables does not mean it would be safe to use that pesticide on lilies you plan to eat. With the exception of added fertilizer, lilies must be grown organically to be edible.

In our early years, we all probably began cooking in general with recipes that were adhered to fervently. Some I still do use, especially with baking. But with cooking, I pretty much have "graduated" into cooking without recipes: a pinch of this, a handful of that, let's try this in there, in my fridge I have this to use up, etc. When I first started looking into cooking with lily bulbs, I found some recipes on the web, but they seemed pretty generic, nothing special, and (I deemed) not worth copying. So I really have no recipes to share using lily bulbs.

But I can say that I have baked them with olive oil, used them in stir fries, fried them like french fries, and even made lily chips (like potato chips). Ironically, what I have not done yet is add them to soups, which is a traditional Asian use.

To me, the basic taste of a cooked lily bulb is similar to a starchy potato. It seems that where ever a potato is used, so can a lily bulb. (Someday, I want to try them mashed.)
[Last edited by Leftwood - Mar 6, 2014 8:28 PM (+)]
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Name: Calin
Weston-super-mare UK (Zone 7b)
Bulbs Lilies Plant and/or Seed Trader
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fixpix
Nov 28, 2012 3:52 AM CST
Wow. Cooking and eating lilies?
I'd feel too sorry to eat them.
Even if I sometimes have no more space for extra bulbs I stumble upon in my garden or receive in trades - I always end up planting them somewhere.
But... are all lilies edible?
Asiatic, Oriental, trumpets, species... ?
Name: Rick R.
near Minneapolis, MN zone 4a
I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Garden Sages The WITWIT Badge Garden Photography Region: Minnesota Plant Identifier
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Leftwood
Nov 28, 2012 5:26 PM CST
fixpix said:But... are all lilies edible?
Asiatic, Oriental, trumpets, species... ?


Good question, and I can't say I know the answer, although I suspect they all are edible. in China, certain species are grown as crops, like Lilium davidii. But one wonders why they don't use more vigorous hybrids. Probably tradition? Many other species are eaten by the local folk, I assume because they happen to be the species that grows locally.

I would think different species would/might have different tastes, textures or other qualities. As the biggest fan of bulb structure here, I have to admit that some look more edible than others. Bulbs of different species and bulbs of different ages are more (or less) easy to clean and remove soil particles, too.

Name: Polly Kinsman
Hannibal, NY (Zone 6a)

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PollyK
Nov 28, 2012 7:01 PM CST
I would be willing to try them. I'll try anything. I saw them in an Asian grocery once, and thought they were artichokes.
Name: Connie
Willamette Valley OR (Zone 8a)
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pardalinum
Nov 28, 2012 7:31 PM CST

Moderator

I'll check with my daughter in law... she is Chinese. They have all kinds of weird (and sometimes slimy looking) stuff in their fridge. Being the good sport that I am I politely tried some fish fins... When her mother comes to visit she sometimes brings her medicinal herbs and I remember seeing a package of dehydrated lily scales. It looked like just the tips were cut off and dried. I think she said they were beneficial to eyesight. My guess is they make a tea out of them.
Name: della
hobart, tasmania
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dellac
Nov 28, 2012 8:50 PM CST
Oh... where to start!?

Thanks to opening the conversation, Leftwood.

Fixpix, there's an overpopulation of hybrid seedlings here, from my years of making crosses and sowing the seeds. After a while, the practicalities of space and simple fact that not every seedling is worth keeping (even without misadventures in breeding Big Grin , all sorts of undesirable features can crop up, and then even if something is nice it's not necessarily an improvement on already existing plants, or unique enough to warrant keeping), and two years ago I ditched rejects in the compost. Even then, they tried bravely to grow from the compost bin... I felt so cruel. Has to be a better fate! thought I, and I'd been reading Stephen Haw's account of Bai Hei (medicinal lily bulb) from The Lilies of China...

I resolved that the best use was to eat them! Plus I'm dead curious. I love almost anything starchy, especially potatoes. And think - lilies could be like self-chipping spuds! No need to slice them up! As yet I haven't taken the plunge, but I sure have some more confidence about it now Big Grin


It's interesting that even from the historical accounts there's no definitive bai hei species, though several candidates are likely to have shared or exchanged the title. Yep, like Leftwood says... it seems lilies have been food for thousands of years, and over that time different species were used according to locality, availability, tradition and preference. Haw concludes that the tiger lily, L. lancifolium, is the modern lily bulb of chinese markets, but who knows what else ends up on the shelf? Historically any of the white chinese trumpets or narrow-leafed red-flowered species could have been used. In theory all lilies should be edible, but I'd certainly like to hear which types give which results: taste best; are easiest to wash and process etc. I also wonder if being grown in potting mix makes a difference to taste, texture, process-ability. This autumn I think I will move some bulbs to the vege patch and experiment.

I'm assuming that autumn after the foliages dies is the best time to harvest for food? The same way we let potatoes die off?

I also love how recipes refer to the individual scales as 'ears' or 'petals'... so much more appetising than the thought of eating 'scales' nodding My first attempts will be something really simple, just baking or stir-frying them alone so I can appreciate them as they are! Something like the method described here: http://myyearinjapan.wordpress.com/category/food/recipes/ Don't they just look like sauteed onion? Drooling Hilarious!
Name: Lorn (Roosterlorn)
S.E Wisconsin (Zone 5b)
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Roosterlorn
Nov 28, 2012 9:22 PM CST
Well, I'll be --. Looks downright tasty! Drooling
Name: Calin
Weston-super-mare UK (Zone 7b)
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fixpix
Nov 29, 2012 2:31 AM CST
Thanks all for the info :)
Maybe ONE DAY I'll give lily bulbs a try!

It does look yummy!

Name: Anthony Gloriosoides[ sure!]
Rosetta,Tasmania,Australia (Zone 7b)
idont havemuch-but ihave everything
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gwhizz
Nov 29, 2012 3:12 AM CST
Black Beauty pizza, with champignons,capsicum , jalipenos,mussels ,prawns, and bacon Thumbs up
lily freaks are not geeks!
Name: della
hobart, tasmania
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dellac
Nov 29, 2012 5:39 AM CST
I'd eat that! Now we need a tango 'n' mango recipe for your orange art surprise.
Name: Shannon
Burkeville,Va (Zone 7a)
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Shannon
Nov 29, 2012 6:49 AM CST
Sounds interesting..But, I already have voles eating my liies and they don't share Sad
I can see a difference in sizes when I dug what was left. I bet BlackBeauty lilies would be
good. They were XXL only after two years in the ground. All the other's were still small but,
some did have babies
The horse is God's gift to mankind. ~Arabian Proverb
central Illinois
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jmorth
Nov 29, 2012 8:52 AM CST
Curiouser and curiouser!
Nothing that's been done can ever be changed.
Name: Rick R.
near Minneapolis, MN zone 4a
I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Garden Sages The WITWIT Badge Garden Photography Region: Minnesota Plant Identifier
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Leftwood
Nov 29, 2012 11:49 AM CST
Not sure how bai hei fits into all this, but bai he is the the Chinese name for just "lily". I have no idea how grammar works in Chinese, but in most languages there are root words that are suffixed and prefixed to change meaning, gender, tense and pluralities.

examples:
xiu li bai he = Lilium amabile
tiao ye bai he =Lilium callosum
hu bei bai he = Lilium henryi
pu jing bai he = Lilium lankongense
zi ban bai he = Lilium nepalense
nan chuan bai he = Lilium rosthornii
Name: della
hobart, tasmania
Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Photo Contest Winner: 2015
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dellac
Nov 29, 2012 9:56 PM CST
oops - my bad. Just checked Haw - it's my fuzzy memory that added an 'i' to the end. Google informs me Hei Bai is a kick-ass forest protector spirit :biggrin:

But that's great information, Leftwood - I had no idea 'Bai He' was so generic a term, but that explains a lot. Reading Haw (again, to find clarification), it's obvious now why he found so much confusion in the chinese literature over the description (and thus identity) of bai he - the authors of old were not being specific, just refering to 'lily'.
Name: Rick R.
near Minneapolis, MN zone 4a
I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Garden Sages The WITWIT Badge Garden Photography Region: Minnesota Plant Identifier
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Leftwood
Nov 30, 2012 1:10 AM CST
I might also clarify that those Chinese names are common names and not technically equivalent to the Botanical Latin. (There is no such thing as a Chinese botanical name; all botanical names are only written in Botanical Latin.)

So more correctly:

xiu li bai he = Korean lily
hu bei bai he = Henry's lily
zi ban bai he = Nepal lily
etc.
Name: Jo Ann Gentle
Pittsford NY (Zone 6a)
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ge1836
Nov 30, 2012 5:40 AM CST
Maybe the Chinese only eat Asiatic lilies LOL.
Lincoln, NE
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Moby
Nov 30, 2012 8:16 AM CST
Naturally. It would be tasteless if they ate Orientals. Whistling
Where are we going, and why am I in this hand-basket?
Name: Jo Ann Gentle
Pittsford NY (Zone 6a)
Charter ATP Member I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Cat Lover Heucheras Hellebores Container Gardener
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ge1836
Nov 30, 2012 9:19 AM CST
la! la! la !
Name: Rick R.
near Minneapolis, MN zone 4a
I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Garden Sages The WITWIT Badge Garden Photography Region: Minnesota Plant Identifier
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Leftwood
Nov 30, 2012 10:18 AM CST
Rolling on the floor laughing Rolling on the floor laughing I wonder if oriental is politically correct these days....

It's not call Northwest Orient Airlines anymore.

An important point (on the serious side) to keep in mind though:
---- Asiatic lilies would be a subset of Asian lilies. The two are not the same group.
Name: Jo Ann Gentle
Pittsford NY (Zone 6a)
Charter ATP Member I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Cat Lover Heucheras Hellebores Container Gardener
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ge1836
Nov 30, 2012 11:13 AM CST
O K Lorne. Your probably right.

On a serious note.I wonder if they are a high starch vedgtable?
Would they taste like a potato? They look like onions in the recipe.

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