Aunt Bett said: "There's two things you'll need, food and medicine. You've got both right here. Let 'em grow." She pointed to the hillside across the creek where the old tawny ditchlilies grew.
*By the 17th century ditchlilies (Hemerocallis fulva) arrived in North America to serve as medicine, food and decoration for home gardens.
*Early pioneers had no time to spend on delicate ornamentals. The ditchlily was strong and required little care, so it became quite popular among the rough homesteaders.
*It is a plant that multiplies well and is seldom bothered by disease.
*The boiled water from cooking ditchlilies was saved and used as a tonic for pain relief by early herbalists.
*The juice from pounded roots can be added to a few drops of water and will act as a diuretic.
*The water from boiled roots is used as a tonic to reduce fever.
*The water from boiled ditchlily blooms produces a golden yellow dye and from the foliage and stems comes a delicate green dye.
*The buds of ditchlilies provide more vitamin C than either asparagus or string beans, while boasting a much higher percentage of protein than either.
*Ditchlilies are also used to help prevent erosion particularly on hillsides where trees have been harvested.
*All parts of the ditchlily are edible, though the fleshy roots are considered medicinal.
*The long crunchy buds can be added to a lettuce and green onion mix for a tasty salad.
*The stems and leaves can be boiled in water, added to kale or other cooked greens.
*Harvest ditchlilies the day that the flower-pods begin to open. They have a sweet flavor and crisp texture.
*Ditchlily buds at any point in their growth can be dipped in a creamy flour batter and then quickly fried in very hot oil. This is a delicacy in some cultures.
*The ditchlily bud tastes delicious in soups, salads, and stir-fries.
*And one more little known fact: swaths of daylilies for mile after mile have been planted across some California hills as firebreaks. Daylilies consist mostly of water.
Ditchlilies, the grandmother of our gorgeous daylilies, let 'em grow!
(The words daylily and ditchlily can be used interchangeably here, but the historical facts refer strictly to ditchlilies. Be sure any greens you gather for food have not been treated with harmful chemicals.)