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Pickled Daylily Bud Recipe

As I type this, I’m looking out at the daylilies in my garden. These aren’t hybrids or cultivars, but the plain old ditch lilies that grace the sides of so many country roads. These are the daylilies that not only feed the gardener’s soul, but also the forager’s stomach.

Daylilies are prolific bloomers; mature plants can produce 10 – 20 flowers, with two or three flowers opening each day, which means a few good sized clumps can make a meal. Usually the deer cut into my harvest, but this year (knock on wood) that hasn’t happened, so yippee!

Pick a few unopened buds from each plant, when they’re at least 1.5 inches long and right up until they’re almost (but not quite) open. You should definitely leave a few behind to flower; the color is undeniably cheery in the garden.

I’ve pickled daylily buds with many different brines, from hot and spicy to a traditional dilly bean brine. This is my favorite, combining foraged spices in a traditional vinegar brine. Pickled daylily buds are terrific in salads, as a side dish for a summer picnic, or on a pickle tray served with cheese. The pequin chiles add a nice bite of heat, so feel free to adjust, according to your personal taste.

What You’ll Need:

  • 3 1/2 cups fresh daylily buds
  • 1 cup white wine vinegar
  • 2 cups water
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 Tbs. kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp. dried, wild ginger stolons (Asarum canadense) (or 1 tsp. fresh, tropical ginger)
  • 1/2 tsp. spice bush berries (Lindera benzoin) (or 1/4 tsp. whole black peppercorns and 1/4 tsp. whole allspice)
  • 1/2 tsp. dried pequin chiles (or the dried hot chile pepper of your choice)
  • 1 large Pennsylvania bay leaf (Myrica pennsylvanica) (or 1/2 bay leaf (Laurus nobilis))

What You’ll Do:

In a saucepan, whisk together all the ingredients except the daylily buds over high heat. Bring the brine to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for five minutes.

While the brine is simmering, pack your canning jars tight with buds, then pour the hot brine over the buds. Cover them with two-part lids until just finger tight, then let them cool on the counter top. Once the jars are at room temperature, put them in the refrigerator.

You could also can these pickles in a boiling water bath, but I think this softens the texture too much and makes them (you should pardon the expression) limp. The flavor is still good, but you’ll get a better texture if you make this as a refrigerator pickle. In which case, they’ll keep in the fridge for 4 – 6 weeks.

These pickles are tangy, but not intensely vinegary. They’re a little hot, and a lot delicious, the perfect complement to a rich cheese, or prosciutto. And they’re pretty darn good as a cocktail garnish, too!

5 comments

  1. len giddix says:

    Well, well! Ellen I seem to find you everywhere. This is Len Giddix from WTIC’s (CBS) Garden Talk in Hartford, CT. I still have your CD of Broadway show plant songs. What a surprise to find you pickling daylily buds. I usually sautee them but thought I would preserve them too this year.
    Say if you would like to call into the show for a 20 minute or so chat please contact me at the email I provided. We are on Saturdays 12 noon to 2pm unless the Red Sox change their schedule. I’m booked into
    August and if your interested I will send the show schedule when I get it at the end of this month.
    Glad to read your advice. Len

    • Ellen says:

      Hi Len! I also love sautéed lily buds. I’d be happy to call into your show. Please do send me the schedule for September when you get it and we’ll find a time to get together.

      • Len Giddix, Garden Talk, Hartford Ct says:

        I don’t know how I missed your response Ellen….but I did. Here it is October and we think we have shows the last two Saturdays in the month…if not bounced because of rescheduled Red Sox games or UConn football. Drop me a line and well put something together. Len

  2. Teresa Sitko-Cole says:

    I pickled a few jars of day lily buds last year. I tried to use the tightest buds that were of a decent size, but was disappointed that they turned out flimsy and limp after a few months in the jar. The flavour was good, but the texture and appearance was not appetizing. Is this normal?

    • Ellen says:

      Hi, Teresa. Yes, it’s normal. I’m sorry to say I had the same experience. I like the flavor very much, but I think the buds do better as a refrigerator pickle. They stay crisper without the boiling water bath. I’ve gone back to change my post to reflect this, and I appreciate your bringing it to my attention. It’s the middle of bud season where I am, and I”m going to think of these as short term pickles from here on out.

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