Creative Sustenance

Culinary and other adventures in foraging, gardening, urban farming and more, in Wisconsin and the Midwest.

A funny thing happened on the way to the garlic mustard patch

I'm planning a nettle and/or garlic mustard pasta making session, so this afternoon we made a quick run to a spot that I haven't been to for a while, where I've always been able to harvest a ton of garlic mustard pretty much throughout the entire season. Surprise of surprises, the place was overrun with wild raspberry brambles. Raspberries had always been there in impressive quantities, but I'd not seen them SO thick that they actually seemed to smother the garlic mustard. Anyone who knows about garlic mustard knows that this invasive doesn't get pushed out by anything; in fact, garlic mustard is the one that almost always does the pushing. I'm wondering if some environmentally-minded and invasive-conscious folks took it upon themselves to pull a lot of garlic mustard this summer. That would be a good thing; there are plenty of other spots where the unwelcome biennial can be found.

Not yet ripe mayapple fruit.

We moved to another location to scout for more garlic mustard and nettles, but again i was thrown off target by the site of several sizable mayapple fruits. Oh such precious treasure! Upon sighting the mayapples I forgot all about garlic mustard and nettles, and began scouring several sizable patches of the umbrella shaped plants for more fruits. I found a couple dozen still-green fruits and a lone ripe one, soft, yellow and fragrant. I enjoyed this sweet gift of the forest, squeezing its leathery skin to break it open so I could suck out its softly seedy gel-like interior. I'd describe mayapples as having the flavor of a muskmelon crossed with a banana, with a hint of guava fruit perhaps.

Ripe mayapple fruit. Soft, yellow, fragrant and delicious.

Mayapples are a finicky wild edible, sometimes bearing fruit, sometimes not. And even when they do the window of opportunity is brief, as they ripen for a short while before being absconded by some wandering skunk or opposum...or, if I'm fortunate, by me. Last year was a dry year and I found nary a single mayapple fruit. Today I counted over 15 good sized fruits and a loose handful of small ones. I intend to go back every few days to check their progress. I'm hoping to be able to gather enough to make at least one jar of jam with a few left over just for eating out of hand.

Three mayapple fruits. Each plant produces but a single fruit.

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