Saturday, May 29, 2010

Indian Cucumber

Not many foraging books will discuss Medeola virginiana, since it can be difficult to find, and is considered endangered in Florida and Indiana. The plant prefers open forests with moist soil. We have found some colonies in Gay City State Park in Hebron CT, and at Browning Mill Pond in Rhode Island. Sometimes only a few plants are found, but in these two places there are large amounts to dig.

The plant has a cottony bloom along it's single stem base. It can either have one set of whorled leaves, or a double tiered set of leaves, producing a flower cluster at the top tier. The bottom tier has between 5-11 smooth, tapered leaves. The top tier, if present, will have 3 leaves and the yellow, hanging flowers. The flowers will produce a small, purplish-black, inedible berry. The veins in the leaves run parallel from the base to the tip.

A few inches below the dirt, running horizontally, is the white, edible root. It can be 1-3 inches long, waxy, and crispy. It washes up easily, and tastes really fresh and sweet, like a cross between a cucumber and a water chestnut. We don't cook it, but eat it raw as a trailside nibble or in a salad. We don't usually gather a large amount, as the plant is killed once dug up, and can be scarce.
We have a letterbox planted in Gay City SP, Foraging Indian Cucumber. It is placed with a second letterbox, Foraging Wild Ginger, which was originally planted in Vermont for the Back to Our Roots gathering.

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