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Wednesday, May 24, 2017

The Impressive May Apple

by Judy Ann Davis
Have your ever eaten a May Apple? When my husband and I transplanted some clusters of ferns from the woods to our flowerbeds many years ago, we received as a bonus the mighty May apple along with them. The plant grows from a single underground rhizoid stem which sends up dozens of finger-shaped shoots in springtime and which reach a height of twelve to eighteen inches. You’ve probably seen these umbrella-looking plants with their delicate white blossoms at the edge of boggy meadows or in the open woods when hiking or taking a leisurely walk. They prefer shade to sunlight, and exist from Quebec to Florida, west to Texas and Minnesota.
Each year, May Apples--having other names like the “umbrella plant, duck’s foot, hog apple, ground lemon, wild jalap, Indian apple, raccoon berry, and American mandrake--bear a small lemon-shaped fruit that can  be eaten and collected to use in preserves or summer punch. But it must be dead ripe. By dead ripe, the fruit or fleshy berry is clear yellow, with no green, and the pulp should be translucent with the berry ready to fall to the ground. Many people who collect the May apple’s fruit won’t pick them until the fruit actually has fallen onto the ground. By that time, the plant’s foliage had died off and only dry, bare stems and the fruit remain.

Other parts of the May apple have had a wide range of medicinal uses with Native Americans. Its botanical name is Podophyllum peltatum, and it is a powerful plant, not to be used lightly: The Indians also used it to commit suicide. Two drugs are made from the May apple, etoposide and teniposide. Etoposide is for testicular and small-cell lung cancer, teniposide is used in conditions like brain tumors and infancy leukemia. It was also used in the well-known “Carter’s Little Liver Pills,” and a main ingredient that made the pills a laxative, but having nothing to do with the liver at all.
Although I’ve never tasted the May apple’s fruit because we always cut them down to allow the ferns to flourish, I’m told the taste is a sweet, mildly acid, exotic flavor. There are actually May apple recipes beside that of a trail side nibble. It can be the basis for a cold drink, or used for jelly (add pectin) compotes, marmalade, pies, and a sauce like applesauce. May apples can be canned; and they freeze well. Do not eat the seeds. Remove them before cooking. This year, I may try to allow a few plants to survive to a mature state with ripened fruit. And if I'm daring, I might try a couple.

                                                                               ~* ~  ~*~  ~*~
         Four White Roses - Just released on May 17th

   "Can a wily old ghost help two fractured souls
                          find love again?"


When widower Rich Redman returns to Pennsylvania with his young daughter to sell his deceased grandmother’s house, he discovers Grandmother Gertie’s final request was for him to find a missing relative and a stash of WWI jewels.

Torrie Larson, single mom, is trying to make her landscape center and flower arranging business succeed while attempting to save the lineage of a rare white rose brought from Austria in the 1900s.

Together, the rich Texas lawyer and poor landscape owner team up to rescue the last rose and fulfill a dead woman’s wishes. But in their search to discover answers to the mysteries plaguing them, will Rich and Torrie also discover love in each other’s arms? Or will a meddling ghost, a pompous banker, and an elusive stray cat get in their way?


  1. I've never heard of May apples, but I think I've seen the plants before in the woods. Let us know how they taste.

    Congrats on the new release. Love the cover!

  2. Interesting post. You're braver than I am! I'd have a hard time taking a bite of a plant that Native Americans have used to commit suicide. Be careful!

  3. IF...and I repeat..."If, I get daring enough to try a May apple, I'll let everyone know what it tastes like. That is, if I'm still around to tell!"

  4. Interesting post! I've seen May Apples in the woods around the valley, was told by my grandmother to leave them alone. Hadn't realized the really ripe fruit was edible. Thought it was always bitter. Thanks for the info!


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