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May 26, 2008

The Devil's Apple

Maybe just because it's May and I'm eating an apple, I've been thinking about mayapples (Podophyllum peltatum) tonight.

When I was a kid, there was a big patch of mayapples on my grandparents' property, right at a bend in the path that led down through the woods to the creek. I was always fascinated by the plants, with their odd single leaf, and their very rare flowers and fruit. I'm not sure any one ever told me that it was edible--I think I just extrapolated that from the word "apple" in the name. I don't think I ate too many of them, because I hardly ever found the fruit--I think the birds or squirrels or woodchucks or raccoons beat me to them most of the time. Turns out the plants are poisonous, as are the fruits if they're not ripe, so I'm probably lucky I didn't do myself in, sampling from them at random. Some people even have dangerous reactions to even touching the plants.

But when ripe, the fruits are edible, and they're actually pretty decent, with a kind of lemon/banana-type of flavor, and people make them into pies and preserves. Knowing what I do now, I'm not sure I'd actually eat such a pie anymore. (And I'm not sure you should either. Consider this a disclaimer--the Fruit Blog does not endorse you eating mayapples or any other potentially poisonous fruit.)

I guess mayapples probably belong to the same class of fruits as bitter almonds: things that are at least kind of safe in small quantities, but probably not good enough for any sane person to consider the risk worth dealing with in any significant quantity.

Anyhow, here's a page with a bunch of mayapple pictures.

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