White Flower Asparagales - Order

Formerly, Asparagus was a modest family in the Lily order, but in 1998 the APG reorganized Monocots in a very big way. Asparagales is now an Order, on the same level as Liliales, and has laid claim to a large number of the families once considered "Lilies".   Photo by Raffi Kojian distributed under license Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike v3.0 Unported.

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Amaryllidaceae Family

Onions, etc.   -   [Genus Allium]
Onion Mix

The Onion genus (Allium), which includes Onions, Garlic, Leeks, Chives, Shallots, Scallions, Ramps and others is critical to almost every cuisine in the world, except a few Hindu and Buddhist sects and the Jains all of whom forbid the entire genus. They use asafoetida to try to close the flavor gap (asafoetida, like onions, is high in sulphur). This very important genus of vegetables has its own Onions page.

Asparagaceae Family

Agave & Sotol   -   [Genus Agave   |   Genus Dasylirion ]
Growing Plant

Agave is an important food and beverage plant, native to arid regions of Mexico and extending into the southwest of the United States and as far south as central South America. Sotol, which is similarly used, has a much more restricted range, through the U.S. / Mexico border region. Both plants are also popular decoratives for dry landscaping. These vegetables have their own Agave & Sotol page.

Asparagus   -   [Asparagus officinalis]

This plant is native to most of Europe, Western Asia and parts of North Africa. It is depicted as an offering on and Egyptian frieze dated to about 3000 BCE, and was a very favored vegetable during the Roman Empire. This vegetable has its own Asparagus page.

Bath Asparagus   -   [Asperge des bois (French); Wild Asparagus, Prussian asparagus, Pyrenees star of Bethlehem, Spiked star of Bethlehem; Ornithogalum pyrenaicum]

This plant is native to southern Europe and Anatolia. In the west it grows as far north as southern England. The name "Bath Asparagus" is from it having been common in the woodlands surrounding the town of Bath in England. It hasn't been sold in England since about 1939, but is still harvested in the wild, possibly overharvested. It may be in cultivation in France, and apparently some is cultivated in the United States, as I have seen a photo of fresh stalks in a Boston market. Young stems with unopened inflorescence are cooked pretty much the same as regular asparagus.   Photo by Prosopee distributed under license Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported.

Cabbage Tree   -   [Genus Cordyline]
Pink Plant

These plants are native to Southeast Asia, Polynesia, Melanesia, New Zealand, Australia and naturalized in Hawaii. They have been valued by indigenous peoples for the high sugar content of their rhizomes and stems. We have given the three most important species their own Cabbage Trees page - not because they are used much differently, but because these closely related species are so very different one from another.

Camas   -   [Quamash, Indian Hyacinth, Camash, Wild Hyacinth; Genus Camassia   -   Species C. quamash, C. howellii, C. scilloides and possibly others]
Flowering Plant

Camas is particularly dense in the northwest of North America - British Columbia, Canada, down into central California in the United States. There is at least one species native to the Midwest and C. scilloides is in the Atlantic region from Ontario down to eastern Texas. They can color entire fields and prairies when in bloom, and were an important food source for many Indian tribes. The main problem is that various Deathcamas species (Genus Melanthiaceae) inhabit the same fields, and are hard to tell from Camas when not in bloom.

Northwest Indians and European settlers alike ate a lot of this plentiful food source. The bulbs were gathered in autumn, after the flowers withered, and were usually boiled or baked in pit ovens. they were also dried and pounded into flour. Camas bulbs taste much like sweet potato, but sweeter.   Photo by Walter Siegmund distributed under license Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported.

Hosta   -   [Funkia, Plantain Lily; Urui, Ginbo, Giboshi, Oobagiboshi (Japan); Hosta sieboldiana; (obsolete H montana) and possibly other species]
Growing Plant

Hostas are native to northeastern China, Korea, Japan and the Russian Far East. They are popular decoratives in other regions because they grow well in shade. Commercially, Hosta is grown in greenhouses (mostly in Japan) and available in late Winter and spring. Regionally, wild Hosta is available in the Spring, but the leaves are tough and bitter so only the stems are used. Hosta is toxic to dogs, cats and horses, but is edible by humans, just slightly bitter.

Wild plants have short stems, while greenhouse grown plants have long white stems because they are banked with rice husks to blanch them. Greenhouse plants are usually harvested at about 11 inches long. They are cooked like asparagus, cutting them into 3 pieces (leaves and two half stems). They must be cooked in boiling salted water, the stem bottoms first, the stem tops, and finally the leaves, all just long enough to be tender. They may then be used in various ways. This plant is mucilaginous, with a taste like asparagus, but a touch of bitterness like lettuce. The lily-like flowers are also edible and often used as a decoration, particularly in deserts.   Photo by Terren Peterson distributed under license Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported, attribution required.

Renga Lily   -   [Rengarenga, New Zealand Rock Lily, Maikaika; Arthropodium cirratum]
Flowering Plant

This plant, native to New Zealand, has leaves up to 24 inches long by up to 4 inches wide, and it puts up flower stalks up to 3 feet high. It is found in the northern quarter of the South Island and in the North Island. There is evidence the Maori farmed Renga Lily, but today it is used mostly as a decorative, though some are gathered in the wild for food and medicinal uses. Traditionally the rhizomes (underground stems), which grow to 1-1/4 inch diameter, were baked in pit ovens.   Photo by Wendy Cutler distributed under license Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic.

Soloman's Seal   -   [Polygonatum biflorum]
Flowering Plant

This plant, native to the central and eastern parts of North America, produces unbranched leaf stems from one to several feet long. These sprout from rhizomes (underground stems) which have been used as food by the natives of North America, treated much like potatoes. Young shoots were also eaten, cooked similarly to asparagus.   Photo by Alejandro F. Piquero distributed under license Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported.

South Indian Squill   -   [Ledebouria revoluta]
Flowering Plant

This plant, native to southern India and southern Africa is used mainly as a medicinal plant, but it produces bulbs which are used for food by some southern African tribes.   Photo by Lalithamba distributed under license Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic.

Tassel Hyacinth   -   [Tufted Grape Hyacinth, Hairy Muscari, Edible Muscari; Lampascioni (Italy); Volvi, Vrovioús (Greek); Leopoldia comosa]
Flowering Plant

This plant is native to Southeast Europe, Turkey and Iran, but has been naturalized elsewhere. The flower stalk is topped with a tassel of sterile blue or violet flowers, beneath which are dark blue fertile flower buds which open into brownish green tubular flowers. The flower stalks can be up to 24 inches high. The plant grows in rocky and cultivated soils.

The part eaten is the bulb from which the plant sprouts. It is cultivated in Apulia and Basilicata in southern Italy. In Greece and particularly Crete, it is considered a delicacy gathered in the wild. In Italy and Greece The bulbs are boiled in several changes of water, pickled, and packed in olive oil with herbs. In Greece and Crete the bulbs may be an ingredient in omelets.   Photo by Meneerke bloem distributed under license Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported.

Wombat Berry   -   [Eustrephus latifolius]
Flowering Plant

This plant is native to Eastern Australia, Malaysia, Indonesia, Borneo, New Guinea, Philippines and other Pacific islands. Through the region the bulbs from which they sprout are baked and eaten, having a sweet earthy flavor.   Photo by Casliber (cropped) distributed under license Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported.

Yucca   -   [Genus Yucca]
Growing Plant

Yuccas are a genus of plants native to relatively arid regions of North America, Mexico, Central and South America and the Caribbean. In central North America They can be found as far north as Alberta, Canada. They are characterized by long, tough, sword-like leaves and and tall stalks of white or light colored flowers (when in season). These vegetables have their own Yucca page.

Iridaceae Family

Iris - Crocus   -   [Family Iridaceae]

The Iris family is a large family of flowering plants found in temperate and subtropical climates worldwide, with the greatest genetic diversity in southern Africa. Many members are popular decoratives, but very few present anything even remotely edible. The most famous in the family is the Saffron Crocus (photo at left), inedible, but providing the most expensive spice in the world. This family has its own Iris Family page.

Orchidaceae Family

Orchids   -   [Family Orchidaceae]

Orchids define "pretty - but pretty useless" in the plant world. They vie with Daisies for title as the largest family of plants with more than 800 genera and almost 30,000 species. Of those only two genera encompassing a very few species have any use as food - and those only as flavorings for desserts. This family has its own Orchids page.

Xanthorrhoeaceae Family

Aloe Vera   -   [Gawar Patha (India); Aloe vera syn: Aloe barbadensis]
Growing Plant

This large (to 39 inches tall), thick leaved succulent is native to patches of North Africa and the Arabian Peninsula, apparently in remnants of a vast dry forest that once covered the whole region, mostly desert now. It was taken to China and Europe in the 17th century and is now naturalized in many regions of the world. There are over 500 species of Aloes, mostly in Africa, but only a few have medicinal uses and only Aloe Vera has culinary uses. Not all Aloe Vera varieties are considered edible, the main edible one being var Chinensis.

Studies of Aloe Vera's medicinal, cosmetic and culinary properties are woefully inadequate and often contradictory. What seems fairly certain is that only the gel inside the leaves should be consumed and only after cooking. The latex in the skin layer is a strong laxative and somewhat toxic. The gel is only mildly laxative and mildly toxic, but consumption should be limited.

The gel is used commercially in yogurt, beverages and some desserts, as well in many cosmetic and skin care products. The main regions for culinary use are India, Singapore and Malaysia.   Details and Cooking.   Photo by Pau Pámies Grácia distributed under license Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International.

Asphodel   -   [Genus Asphodelus]
Flowering Plant

Asphodels are native to the Mediterranean region with some ranging into central Africa and India. Some have become naturalized in the United States, Australia and New Zealand and are considered troublesome invasives. The photo shows Asphodelus ramosus, a branched species, though most have a single unbranched flower spike.

In ancient times, Asphodel roots were eaten by the poorest Greeks. In recent times the leaves have been used to wrap Italian Burrata cheese - if the leaves are no longer green, the cheese is too old. In Sardinia it is valued for a premium grade honey, and in Apulia, in southeastern Italy, unripened flower buds are picked, blanched in boiling water and preserved in Olive Oil as a condiment.   Photo by H. Zell distributed under license Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported.

Daylily   -   [Hemerocallis fulva]
Flowering Plant

Flowers of some daylilies are eaten fresh, and the unopened buds, called "Golden Needles", are eaten both fresh or dried. Root tubers of the Orange Daylily (photo to left) are also eaten, and possibly those of others. Most are native to East Asia, but some are native as far west as the Caucasus, Sloveina and northeastern Italy. They have become naturalized in many regions and can be invasive pests.   Details and Cooking.

Flax Lilies   -   [Genus Dianella]
Berries on Plant

These plants, with long (to over 3 feet) strap-like leaves resembling real flax, range from India to Japan, Australia, New Zealand and various Pacific Islands. At least one species exists in Africa. The photo shows berries of Dianella caerulea (Blue flax-lily, Blueberry lily, Paroo lily), a species native to Tasmania and eastern Australia. These berries are about 5/8 inch diameter and edible, but not all species of Dianella are edible. Other species with edible berries are D. revoluta and D. admixta, while D. congesta (Beach flax lily) is said to have the best tasting berries.   Photo by Harry Rose distributed under license Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic.

Scrambling Lily   -   [Geitonoplesium cymosum]
Flowering Plant

This scrambling vine is native to forests of the Southwest Pacific region, including Australia, Indonesia, Philippines, New Guinea, Fiji and a few other islands. Young shoots are eaten similarly to asparagus, and have a pleasant bean-like taste. They are not often cultivated and are harvested in the wild.   Photo by Harry Rose distributed under license Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic.

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