Eating Mayapples

Eating wild plants can be a roll of the dice.

Some are completely edible.  Others have both poisonous and edible parts.  Still others are poisonous most of the year with a brief window when you can safely eat them.

Mayapple is one of the the tricky ones.  The entire plant is poisonous except for the ripe fruit. 

Ripeness is key — don’t eat it too soon!  — but good luck finding one.  Wild animals usually consume them before we find the fruit.

Last weekend, Dianne and Bob Machesney found a ripe mayapple and decided to taste it.  Dianne sent these photos and said: 

“We found a mayapple that the chipmunks missed and it was ripe.  I know that they are edible when ripe but never get to taste one before the critters.  Bob cut this one in half and we shared it.  It was juicy and fresh tasting, like a lemony cucumber and the good news, we are both still alive.”

The roots are another story.  Dianne told me “legend has it that any female who digs up a mayapple will get pregnant” but I wonder how this legend came about.  Native Americans used small doses of the powdered roots as a purgative/laxative but the dosage had to be small.  Too much meant death.  

As I said… a roll of the dice.

(photos by Dianne Machesney)

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