The Feisty Forager: May Apple
March Madness — Day 26
May apple (Podophyllum peltatum), also known as mandrake, hog apple, ground lemon, Indian apple, raccoonberry, and umbrella leaf, is a beauty of a plant, both in its foliage and its drooping flower, and is frequently an indicator that morels may be close by.
Toxic except for its fruit (and then only if the fruit is fully ripe and you remove the seeds), it’s a bit of a gamble, but the ripe fruit is reminiscent of pawpaws which are somewhat reminiscent of bananas, and can be made into a delightful jelly.
Because certain animals (racoons, turtles) are so fond of the fruit, it is rare to find a ripe (soft to the touch) specimen. But it’s worth returning to the woods again and again to see if you can beat the four-legged gourmands. If at all nervous about ingesting the apple, you can simply admire its graceful contribution to the forest atmosphere.
This article is one of a month-long series of foraged treasures. For more recipes from the field and forest, check out Appalachian Appetite: Recipes from the Heart of America.