the long awaited harvest
Does this look delicious to you? The mayapple is a primo example of beauty being in the eye of the beholder. And this beholder says yum-yum.
I've recommended Sam Thayer's books here before, and in Nature's Garden he writes about the elusive mayapple in a way that made me laugh out loud:
"I, too, have felt my heart pounding as I knelt down and peered among the half-yellowed leaves in search of a second [italics are mine] mayapple. I have bolted among the while oak trunks to pounce on one dangling, shaded yellow treasure after another. I have run to exhaustion up limestone ridges in the waning dusk light, scratching my thighs on blackberry thorns and covering my socks with stick-tights in the hope of adding two or three pulpy mayapples to my precious dozen.
"I have never examined the input/output ratio of calories for this pursuit, nor have I calculated my labor efficiency. But please don't do it for me. Let us mayapple hunters have our fun. Who cares how many hours are consumed: we are driven by our memory of that one time, when there was a fruit on every forked stem, some even as big as kiwi fruits - and we got hundreds. You don't understand. You weren't there."
That pretty much describes how Mark and I felt last weekend, as we forded the Lackawaxen to visit our favorite mayapple patch. Not a fruit in site. Was it too late? More likely this summer's drought had come at just the wrong time and the fruit aborted. Sigh. At least it was a nice swim.
Fortunately, back at my second favorite mayapple patch there were a few fruit lingering on the very brown, very dry plants. They may look a little funky, but that's how you want them: soft, squishy, and fragrant. An underipe mayapple is a sad thing. It's said that if the fruit is showing yellow color but not quite soft, that it will ripen on the windowsill. But be careful: any fruit that doesn't fully ripen can taint the whole batch.
Now...what to make with my limited (and therfore more highly treasured) bounty? I'm open to suggestions.