Category: Vii Wild Food On The Trail
One of the most delicious wild fruits we have is the _May-apple_ or
_mandrake_. It is finely flavored, sweet and juicy, but being a laxative
one must eat of it sparingly. It is most common in the Middle States and
reaches perfection in Ohio.
The plant is from twelve to eighteen inches high, and the large
umbrella-like leaves are lifted on smooth, straight stems. The fruit
usually grows from the fork of two leaves. It is yellow, lemon-shaped,
and about the size of a plum. The flesh is like that of the plum and
there are numerous seeds in fleshy seed coverings. It ripens in July and
is quite soft when fully ripe. I have sometimes gathered the firm,
yellow May-apples, put them away in a cool, dark, dry place to ripen,
and in taking them out have found them in prime condition. They will
ripen in this way without spoiling if not allowed to touch one another.
The leaves frequently measure a foot in diameter; they have from five to
nine lobes, which are notched and pointed at the tips; the upper side is
darker than the lower. While the fruit of the May-apple is edible, the
leaves and root are poisonous, not to the touch but to the taste. The
flower is a clear white with from eight to twelve rounding petals and it
generally measures about one and a half inches across. The petals expand
in the morning, become erect in the afternoon, and close at night. We
are told that the May-apple is a roadside plant, but I have found it
only in the woods.
Next: Wild Grapes