Friday, August 6, 2010

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.

8 Comments:

At August 7, 2010 at 1:52 AM , Blogger meemsnyc said...

I've never seen these before!

 
At August 7, 2010 at 7:04 AM , Anonymous Elizabeth said...

What do they taste like, & what are the kinds of things you make with them? Are they awful & contagious (how else would they taint others...!) when unripe?

 
At August 7, 2010 at 8:41 AM , Blogger Ellen Zachos said...

It's so hard to describe a unique taste in terms of other tastes, but I'd say it's like a combo of pineapple, passion fruit, and maybe banana. In other words: sweet and tropical. I've made both jelly and sorbet in the past; someone described the jelly to me as sunshine in a jar. What I meant by taint was that if you have even one unripe mayapple in a batch of otherwise ripe mayapples, that one, unripe fruit will ruin the taste of all the others. It's not harmful, just tastes off. Hence my caution!

 
At August 7, 2010 at 9:11 AM , Anonymous Leda Meredith said...

Yum! I still have my haul from last month waiting for me. What to do with them? A lovely question to ponder and follow through on. Glad you found them!

 
At August 7, 2010 at 12:14 PM , Blogger SaraGardens said...

Oh dear... sorbet now or jelly for later? I'd go sorbet, but I don't have your magic ways with jelly-making.

 
At August 7, 2010 at 9:55 PM , Blogger Marie said...

*mutter*mutter*mutter*

 
At August 8, 2010 at 10:01 AM , Anonymous Mark said...

Perhaps stretch into jelly with some regular apples? The jelly is pure ambrosia, after all.

Folks: what Mme Zed failed to mention was the black cherry haul we made, and the gorgeous sumac heads we gathered! Such splendid bounty.

 
At August 12, 2010 at 8:36 PM , Blogger Anne said...

would love to have a taste

 

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