Tiger lilies (Lilium tigrinum) are a member of the day lily family (Hemerocallis) and are very common in North America. The plant grows a stunning large orange flower with black spots. Besides producing this spectacle, most parts of the plant are edible. Native Americans ate the bulbs of the plant like potatoes. The young shoots and roots are also edible. However, the most commonly eaten part of the tiger lily are the immature buds, also known as golden needles and lily flowers. The buds have been used in China both for food and medicine for centuries. Today the buds are still commonly used in a variety of Chinese dishes. They add texture, flavor, and thickness to soups and are especially popular in mu-shu dishes, which are stir-fried dishes served with mandarin pancakes. The buds can be eaten raw, but they are generally harvested when they are starting to wither and are then dried. The dried buds are several inches long and very slender. They range in color from light amber to brown and are chewy with a mild musky and earthy flavor.

The best place to find dried tiger lily buds is in an Asian market. Look for buds that have a pale color and are soft, not brittle. They store well for a long time in the pantry or other cool, dry place. Tiger lily buds must be soaked in warm water for about 30 minutes to soften them before adding them to dishes. The buds often have a tough stem attached to them that should be removed. The softened buds can be left whole or sliced into strips. The reference I found stated that you can get better flavor by tying the buds into a knot. Besides adding the buds to a variety of Chinese dishes you can try them in salads or egg dishes.

momomom informs me that "golden needles" can refer to flowers from the tiger lily or other kinds of day lilies.


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