Feeling hungry? The Ohio State University website’s Weed Guide says that “all parts of the daylily are edible, and plants have been cultivated for thousands of years in Asia for food. The buds or new flowers are regularly cooked and eaten in China and Japan. In addition, the rhizomes can be chopped and cooked like potatoes, and are said to be as sweet as sweet corn. The tuberous roots have a nut-like flavor and can be eaten raw or roasted. Young shoots have been prepared like asparagus, but consumption should be avoided.” Some reports claim that eating large quantities of the young shoots can cause hallucinations and be toxic!
Today there are over 55,000 different varieties of daylilies. The flowers can be bi-colored or have colored edges, ruffled petals, or smooth, colored throats and eyes, blooms can be miniature or large or dusted with color. Such an abundance of options can be credited to Dr. Arlow Burdette Stout, the first person to seriously begin hybridizing daylilies. Dr. Stout was born in Albion, WI (a small town located 27 miles southeast of Madison) on March 10, 1876. He was a graduate of the Whitewater State Normal School and later the University of Wisconsin, where he taught botany. In 1911 he was appointed director of laboratories at the New York Botanical Garden where he spent 36 years revolutionizing the country’s daylily breeding program, increasing their popularity among nurseries and the public. (He was also instrumental in introducing seedless grape varieties.) Before Dr. Stout, daylilies were only available in orange, yellow, and dull reddish-yellow colors. His experiments in cross-pollination of Hemerocallis species opened the door for other plant breeders to introduce all different shades of red, pink, purple, melon, cream, yellow, and orange.