The Paleo Diet- It Isn’t What You Think It Is

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The Paleolithic period, also known as a part of the Stone Age, lasted 2.6 million years ago to about 12,000 years ago and has inspired many an idea of what your plate should look like today. The modern dietary theory called the “Paleo Diet” or “Caveman Diet” professes that ancient hunters/gatherers shared a certain diet during that period, and that diet is still essential for reclaiming our health in contemporary times. While there is variability in the way it is interpreted, the diet typically includes specific vegetables, fruits, nuts, roots, and meat and excludes certain other vegetables, dairy, grains, legumes, certain oils, artificial ingredients, salt, & alcohol.

Now, my profession consists of telling people to eat vegetables. I’m not here to put down any diet that aims to do the same. I’ve been professionally trained in the modern Paleo diet, along with dozens of other dietary theories that I use with my clients. Any diet that says “just eat real food” is always going to point you in the direction of better health. But alas, I am an eternal “vegetable truther.” Where there is misinformation in the nutrition industry, I will seek to set the record straight. Do you follow the modern day “Paleo Diet?” Cool. Keep eating it. Just know it’s not actually Paleo. Many foods that are today being touted as being “paleo” did not even exist during the Paleolithic era. Many foods on the modern paleo diet “no” list were actually staples in a true, historically accurate Paleo diet. Don’t believe me? Keep reading. Are you interested in learning more about the real Paleo diet? Cool. Also keep reading.

Now the wonderful thing about any ancient, traditional diet is that there were no orthorexic rules that our society seems so obsessed with today- it was eat what nature provided, when nature provided it. A true paleo diet can best be described as “opportunistic omnivores.” I like that. Unfortunately today, that same term would translate to going to whatever McDonalds is closest to your house.

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Using today’s terminology we could describe a true paleo diet as organic (all food was organic until the 1940’s), non-GMO (genetically modified crops were not manufactured and introduced into our food supply until the 1980’s), whole, local, seasonal, and wild. There were no isolated synthetic vitamins and minerals to fortify with, no preservatives, artificial colors and flavors, MSG and synthetic flavor enhancers, pesticides, herbicides, etc.

Paleo people were more well-nourished and had less famine than the Neolithic and more agrarian cultures that followed them. They had a wider variety of natural foods and they were foragers, with no dependence on a small number of crops and cultivated foods like we do in modern times. I can personally harvest over 30 species of wild plants in the park in my suburban village- imagine how much more food a person would have had within arm’s reach back in that period of time.

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Although not quite old enough to be Paleolithic, Otzi the ice man gives us unique insight into what a diet looked like before most of our food was cultivated. As he lived near regions that we’ll be discussing and used most of the same methods to obtain his food, his diet likely would not vary much from a typical version of a true Paleolithic diet.

Otzi, the incredibly well-preserved iceman discovered in 1991, lived in the region that is now northern Italy, some 5,300 years ago. And his last meal consisted of… wild goat (Ibex) and Einkorn wheat.

Now wheat is an interesting one, as it’s been demonized by many different dietary theories today.

As a holistic nutritionist with Celiac disease, I understand better than most how damaging gluten-containing grains can be. However, I also understand that everybody’s bodies are dramatically different, one man’s poison may be another man’s food and vice versa. Unless I work with a client and find them to have a genuine wheat or gluten allergy or intolerance, I will not immediately rush to tell them to eliminate it. When we get into cutting out whole foods without any solid reason other than “I read about it in this book” or “this guy says it’s bad for everyone” or “this person punched this into a machine and the printout says I can’t eat it” then meal planning and eating becomes this stressful, confusing, frustrating, messy, overly-restricted and eventually despised regimen. Common sense gets thrown out the window too many times. Keep it simple.

But I digress.

In some people the culprit may not even be the wheat itself, but what’s been done to it. The modern wheat you get in stores today is not even remotely close to distant cousins like Einkorn. For my wheat-eating clients I recommend ancient, organic varieties of it such as Einkorn or spelt, in the unrefined, unmilled form.

The term Einkorn wheat refers to two different types- the wild form, triticum boeoticum, or the domesticated form, triticum monococcum. As records of domestication of wheat go back to just 8,650 to 7,950 BC, this clearly was not a part of the true Paleolithic diet. However, archaological evidence in Syria found that humans may have started harvesting this wild wheat around 30,000 years ago. That makes this wheat a very paleo treat. Triticum boeoticum has been traced back to pre-neolithic sites in Turkey and areas throughout northern Europe. It is a low-yielding grain, thus was eaten in small quantities. Wheat was eaten in the same way we’d eat it in its whole food form today- boiled in water whole or eaten as porridge, similar to how we make oatmeal today.

Compared to modern wheat, Einkorn has more protein, healthy fats, magnesium, b6, beta carotene, and potassium.

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wheat! it’s coming for you!

Anthropologists have found that proportions of foods consumed varied quite a bit. You tend to find that chillier areas are more meat-heavy out of necessity. The extra calories, fat, and warmth were needed to thrive in cold climates. When you were hungry, you hunted.

Certain areas have also been found to be far more plant-based, with very small amounts of meat. Other areas were higher in carbs, with tubers being a main staple. So a paleo diet did not necessarily mean lots of meat or low carb, either. It is estimated the average true Paleolithic diet consisted of 3.6-4.2 pounds of fruits and vegetables daily.

So lets compare. How does the modern “Paleo diet” stack up against the true historically accurate Paleo diet?

  • Dairy? The modern Paleo Diet says no. Is it truly Paleo? Yes! There is evidence that late paleo cultures most likely domesticated reindeer for their meat and dairy as early as 14,000 BC.
  • Against the grain? Now we know that the true paleo diet did indeed include grains. One variety of quinoa (chenopodium quinoa var. melanospermum) was believed to be in the ancient paleo diet. But since they were not cultivated they were not available in large quantities. Your plate reflected what you picked. Small servings.
  • Soy free? My research says yes, the paleo diet was devoid of soy.
  • Gluten free? Nope!
  • Sugar free? No! The true paleo diet embraced all fruits that were available to them.
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wild grapes would have been eaten during paleolithic times

  • Refined sugar free? Yes! Just say no to refined white sugar.
  • Vegan? No! At least not by choice. Opportunistic omnivores. However if the opportunity was not there or if you were a terrible hunter, you may be a temporary (and hangry) vegan.
  • Alcohol free? Probably. One archaeologist believes fermented wild grape wine traces back to 8,500 BC, which is not quite long enough ago to be considered Paleo. Unless they kept their magic spirits secret…
  • BACON! There is no evidence of pigs being eaten during Paleolithic times. Sorry. Bacon, pork, ham, etc are simply not true paleo foods.
  • Legumes? Legumes have been found in Paleolithic archaeobotanical findings in Kebara Cave, Israel and there are varieties that would have been consumed during the Paleo era including Fabaceaes like peas, vetch, and clover. Archaeological finds have found peas to be a part of the Paleolithic diet in Switzerland. Lentils have been traced back to the Greek diet as far as 11,000 BC, which puts it in that Paleo grey area. But I don’t think it’s unreasonable to think that they could have been consumed around 12,000 BC, so we’ll label lentils as a “Paleo maybe-o.”
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vicia americana, American vetch

Foods you think are Paleo that really aren’t:

  • Bell peppers: these are a modern cultivar
  • Kale: came about around 300 BC
  • Broccoli: made from a kale predecessor in the 1500s
  • Cabbage (savoy): dates back to the 1500s
  • Kohlrabi: also from the 1500s
  • Brussels sprouts: first used in the 400’s, the modern cultivar you eat today came about in the 1200s
  • Cauliflower: bred in the 1300-1400s
  • Bananas: the bananas you eat today have been around for less than 200 years. If you lived in Papua New Guinea, you would have eaten banana cultivars beginning around 5000-8000 BC. But still not exactly paleo.
  • Apples: any that are not crabapples. This includes your honeycrisp, golden and red delicious, gala, braeburn, and so on.
  • Chicken: The chicken you’re eating today is a modernized hybrid of junglefowl and would not have been a component of a truly Paleo diet. The first records of the chicken you know and love today being eaten are from 600 BC.
  • Zucchini: this is a pretty new food- zucchini as you know it was developed in the second half of the 19th century in Italy. Summer squashes are native to Mexico and can be traced back to 7,000 to 5,500 BC, so would not have been part of the paleo diet in Europe.
  • Olive oil: Olives were not known to be picked until the Neolithic peoples, and archaeological evidence shows that they were first made into olive oil between 6000 BC and 4500 BC in Israel. Sorry, your olive oil isn’t Paleo.

So while of course there are large variances in the true Paleolithic diet based upon what was available at the time, here’s the rundown of what was really eaten during that time period:

  • Fish
  • Legumes
  • Seeds
  • Nuts
  • Grains
  • Children were weaned much later than they typically are today, so children had the advantage of breastmilk for many years
  • Animals such as wooly mammoths, deer, seals, elands, shellfish, carrion, & birds
  • Eggs
  • Tubers & roots
  • Fruits
  • Insects
  • Raw dairy
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ancient wild foods harvested near my home

On top of that there are many of today’s wild foods that we know were around during Neolithic times. I have no reason to believe these were not available 12,000 years ago or longer:

  • Stinging nettles
  • Beech nut
  • Garlic mustard
  • Lambs quarters
  • Acorns
  • Hazelnuts
  • Burdock root
  • Wild grapes
  • Elder flowers and berry
  • Blackberries
  • Raspberries
  • Wild turnips
  • Crab apples
  • Bolete mushrooms: mushrooms are a difficult food to detect in ancient remains, but we do have evidence of bolete mushrooms being consumed in Spain 18,000-12,000 years ago
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boletes like these that my husband harvested would have been eaten

Curious, intriguing, surprising, and inspiring isn’t it? While I’m not telling you to go make this your end-all diet, I do think our modern “diet culture” can take some lessons from the Paleolithic peoples. Eat real food, mostly plants, no whole natural food is inherently bad, and relax. Oh, and eat your nettles.

Warmly,

Megan Normansell, CHC, AADP, CFH

Certified Holistic Practitioner/Holistic Nutritionist/Herbalist/Wild Edibles Guide

Follow me on Facebook and Instagram for more recipes and healthy living ideas!

Interested in healing your body naturally?
Get the answers you’ve been searching for, and heal your body for good… naturally. We have successfully helped thousands of people across the country live a healthier life than they ever could have imagined, and specialize in dozens of different health concerns. Curious? Schedule your complimentary consultation with me today! Read the incredible reviews we’ve received over the years here.

http://www.aayushealth.com – megan@aayushealth.com – 920-327-2221

 

Copyright Megan Normansell 2018 All rights reserved. 

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Creamy Wild Mushroom & Brie Soup

It’s no secret the canned cream of mushroom soup is horrendous for your health. Is there even any real food in there?? Here we have a much more flavorful and healthy alternative- great eaten on its own with a salad, or used as a replacement for cream of mushroom soup in your favorite recipes.

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Nom!

To add a wild twist to mine, I chose to use wild chanterelle mushrooms that I had frozen from last summer’s harvest. But you can use any mushroom you can get your hands on and it’ll still be wonderful! In place of the white wine I used my maple sap wine that we brewed with sap from the maples in our yard last winter. (wow that stuff is strong!)

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Ingredients:

  • 16-24 oz mushrooms
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoons dried thyme
  • 2 tablespoons of gluten-free flour
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 4 cups of vegetable broth
  • 6-10 ounces brie, rind cut off and cut into smaller squares
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • sea salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. Finely chop 3/4 of the mushrooms, and then slice the rest into thin pieces.
  2. Melt the butter in a pan over medium heat and add the mushrooms. Cook for about 5 minutes, stirring frequently.
  3. Add the onions, thyme, and garlic to the mushrooms and cook on medium heat for about 5 minutes, or until the onions are translucent.
  4. Add the flour and wine then cook for another 5 minutes.
  5. Add the milk and brie, and stir as until the brie fully melts.
  6. Separate the bigger slices of mushrooms, then puree the rest of it in a blender or food processor. Then add in the mushroom pieces for some texture, and enjoy!

Warmly,

Megan Normansell (Kerkhoff), CHC, AADP, CFH

Certified Holistic Practitioner/Holistic Nutritionist/Herbalist/Wild Edibles Guide

Follow me on Facebook and Instagram for more recipes and healthy living ideas!

Get Even Healthier!
Get the answers you’ve been searching for, and heal your body for good… naturally and holistically.  We have successfully helped thousands of people across the country live a healthier life than they ever could have imagined, and specialize in dozens of different health concerns. Curious? 
Schedule your complimentary consultation with me today! Read the incredible reviews we’ve received over the years here!

http://www.aayushealth.com     –     megan@aayushealth.com    –    920-327-2221

 

Copyright Megan Normansell 2018 All rights reserved. 

Super Immune Chaga Gummies

As we are entering “chaga season,” I thought I’d share one of my family’s favorite things to do with it- super immune chaga gummies!

For those unfamiliar, chaga is a potent medicinal mushroom that grows in the northwoods of Wisconsin. With hundreds of clinical studies behind it, it’s used for strengthening the immune system, balancing autoimmune disorders, fighting cancer and tumors, cholesterol, blood pressure, eczema, inflammation, and many more.

We first make the chaga tea from the dried chunks, then add maple syrup until nice & sweet. Then follow this recipe, simply substituting the elderberry syrup for chaga. Sometimes we will do half & half. They are delicious and help to keep away the colds & flu that are circulating this time of year!

My hand-harvested Wisconsin chaga to make this recipe is available here!

Warmly,

Megan Normansell (Kerkhoff), CHC, AADP, CFH

Certified Holistic Practitioner/Holistic Nutritionist/Herbalist/Wild Edibles Guide

Follow me on Facebook and Instagram for more recipes and healthy living ideas!

Get Even Healthier!
Get the answers you’ve been searching for, and heal your body for good… naturally and holistically. We have successfully helped thousands of people across the country live a healthier life than they ever could have imagined, and specialize in dozens of different health concerns. Curious? Schedule your complimentary consultation with me today! Read the incredible reviews we’ve received over the years here!

http://www.aayushealth.com – megan@aayushealth.com – 920-327-2221

Copyright Megan Normansell 2018 All rights reserved. 

Creamy Wild Watercress & Nettle Soup

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Wild watercress and nettles are sprouting in Wisconsin, and they are quite the culinary treat!

High in calcium, iron, vitamin c, beta-carotene, magnesium, potassium, zinc, copper, vitamin E, vitamin K, lutein, b vitamins, and many more, watercress is rich in potent antioxidants that help to fight cancer. It’s been found to help smokers or those exposed to secondhand smoke excrete the toxins found in cigarettes from their urine in just 3 days.  It’s also good for liver problems.

Stinging nettles are my go-to safe alternative to allergy drugs. They help hayfever and any type of allergies, supporting the immune system and anti-inflammatory response naturally, instead of just covering up symptoms like drugs. This mint can be used for prostate problems, PMS, asthma, bronchitis, sciatica, tendonitis, multiple sclerosis, gout, hives, kidney stones, sciatica, high blood pressure, & eczema. Just about one cup of this veggie will give you half the calcium you need for the day, with good amounts of magnesium, manganese, iron, b vitamins, vitamin k, beta carotene, and potassium.

Both greens are excellent for treating anemia, purifying the blood, and for arthritis.   Note: Be careful not to touch the nettles without gloves- they bite!

Ingredients:

2 cups MSG-free vegetable broth

2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil or organic butter

1 small onion, roughly chopped

1 bunch of watercress

1 bunch of nettles

2 medium potatoes, peeled & chopped

2 tbsp finely chopped fresh chives

¼ cup organic whole plain yogurt, extra to garnish (eliminate to make vegan)

Sprinkle of chives to garnish

Himalayan salt & black pepper to taste

 

Directions:

Bring the broth to a boil, and add the potatoes. Meanwhile in a large saucepan, heat the butter/oil over medium heat. Add the nettles, watercress, and onions. Turn heat down a bit and cook until the onions are translucent. Once your potatoes are tender, add the cooked greens mixture to the pot and boil for a couple minutes. Place in your food processor or blender and puree until smooth. Add the yogurt, then season to taste with the salt & pepper. Ladle into bowls immediately and enjoy!

Warmly,

Megan Normansell (Kerkhoff), CHC, AADP, CFH

Certified Holistic Practitioner/Holistic Nutritionist/Herbalist/Wild Edibles Guide

Follow me on Facebook and Instagram for more recipes and healthy living ideas!

Get Even Healthier!
Get the answers you’ve been searching for, and heal your body for good… naturally and holistically.  We have successfully helped thousands of people across the country live a healthier life than they ever could have imagined, and specialize in dozens of different health concerns. Curious? 
Schedule your complimentary consultation with me today! Read the incredible reviews we’ve received over the years here!

http://www.aayushealth.com     –     megan@aayushealth.com    –    920-327-2221

Wild Ramp & Egg Bowl with Lemon Herb Sauce

Tis the season for wild ramps-  here’s an incredible recipe that can be eaten as a breakfast or dinner. Tastes like a kind of gourmet eggs benedict!

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Ingredients:

  • 10-15 ramps
  • 2-3 eggs
  • Sea salt to taste
  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp of fresh parsley
  • About half cup of your favorite mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 tbsp pine nuts
  • Juice of ½ lemon
  • Pinch of chili flakes or powder
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • Pinch of paprika

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Directions:

Preheat oven to 375. Place the ramps, mushrooms, 4 tbsp of olive oil and a sprinkling of salt in a baking pan or cast iron pan and bake for 15 minutes or until the mushrooms are golden.

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While it is cooking, bring a pot of water to a boil and poach/soft boil the eggs for about 3 minutes.

Blend the parsley, 1 tbsp pine nuts, lemon juice, ½ cup olive oil, and chili in a food processor until smooth. Season to taste with sea salt.

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Place the mushroom/ramp blend in a bowl, topped with the eggs. Drizzle with the lemon herb sauce, and then the remaining 1 tbsp pine nuts. Sprinkle the egg with paprika if desired. Enjoy!

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Warmly,

Megan Normansell (Kerkhoff), CHC, AADP, CFH

Certified Holistic Practitioner/Holistic Nutritionist/Herbalist/Wild Edibles Guide

Follow me on Facebook and Instagram for more recipes and healthy living ideas!

Get Even Healthier!
Get the answers you’ve been searching for, and heal your body for good… naturally and holistically.  We have successfully helped thousands of people across the country live a healthier life than they ever could have imagined, and specialize in dozens of different health concerns. Curious? 
Schedule your complimentary consultation with me today! Read the incredible reviews we’ve received over the years here.

http://www.aayushealth.com     –     megan@aayushealth.com    –    920-327-2221

Copyright Megan Normansell 2017 All rights reserved. 

Tap Dancing!

Today my dad and I tapped the maple trees in my yard.  This was a first attempt for both of us,  and I’m pretty sure we tapped a tree that wasn’t a maple… but I think we came out pretty good overall!  😉

You can see our process below. 36 gallons of sap will make approximately 1 gallon of syrup.  I already have 2 big producers,  so fingers crossed!  The very last picture is the amount of sap collected from one side of my better trees after about an hour.

Follow my blog to get updates as it is transformed into maple syrup!

Warmly,

Megan Normansell (Kerkhoff), CHC, AADP, CFH

Certified Holistic Practitioner/Holistic Nutritionist/Herbalist/Wild Edibles Guide

Follow me on Facebook and Instagram for more recipes and healthy living ideas!

Get Even Healthier!
Get the answers you’ve been searching for, and heal your body for good… naturally and holistically.  We have successfully helped thousands of people across the country live a healthier life than they ever could have imagined, and specialize in dozens of different health concerns. Curious? 
Schedule your complimentary consultation with me today! Read the incredible reviews we’ve received over the years here!

http://www.aayushealth.com     –     megan@aayushealth.com    –    920-327-2221

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Wild Grape Juice (The real stuff!)

Yesterday I was invited to a friend’s property to do a plant walk with her.  Lucky for me she had more fruit than she knew what to do with!  I left with a nice supply of autumn olives and wild grapes.

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We love to eat the autumn olives as a snack, or mix with local yogurt.

After getting rid of the bad grapes,  I ended up with about 40 oz. Straight to the juicer!

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Wild grapes are an excellent source of catechins, anthocyanins and resveratrol, as well as many vitamins, minerals, electrolytes, and other phytonutrients. This gives this fruit anti-oxidant, stroke preventative, anti-allergenic, anti-cancer, and anti-inflammatory properties.

Because they are so tart,  I added 3 organic apples to the mix to sweeten.  The end result: what a treat!  My toddler gulped it down.

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Thanks for visiting!

Megan Normansell (Kerkhoff), CHC, AADP, CFH

Certified Holistic Practitioner/Holistic Nutritionist/Herbalist/Wild Edibles Guide

Follow me on Facebook and Instagram for more recipes and healthy living ideas!

Get Even Healthier!
Get the answers you’ve been searching for, and heal your body for good… naturally and holistically.  We have successfully helped thousands of people across the country live a healthier life than they ever could have imagined, and specialize in dozens of different health concerns. Curious? 
Schedule your complimentary consultation with me today! Read the incredible reviews we’ve received over the years here!

http://www.aayushealth.com     –     megan@aayushealth.com    –    920-327-2221

The Hunt for Wisconsin’s Rarest & Most Delicious Fruit

I posted a contest in my herbal medicine group Megan’s Herbal Apothecary the other day- who could identify this native Wisconsin fruit?

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It took quite a few guesses before someone found it. This is the delicious, dangerous, elusive, & highly sought-after Mayapple (Podophyllum), also known by some as Wild Mandrake. I have been searching for this fruit you see here for TWO years, and I had been tracking this particular plant since spring.

So what’s the hype? Well for starters, the fruit is difficult to find- each plant only bears one fruit, and they don’t always fruit every year. The fruits are generally only ripe from the last couple weeks of August to the first week of September in Wisconsin.

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Every part of the plant you see above picture is highly poisonous. Until the fruit turns a delicate yellow color and becomes soft, it is toxic. Ingestion of plant parts (other than ripe fruits) produces emesis and catharsis. Larger quantities can induce coma and death. Even handling the plant can poison you- severe dermatitis, keratitis, and even deaths have been reported from repeated topical application.

Because the ripe fruits are so tasty, they are a favorite of wildlife and are typically enjoyed before humans ever find them. So even if you do find these plants, and do visit them during the right time, there are no guarantees you’ll get to enjoy the literal fruit of your labor.

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Wait… do you see what I see??

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Could it be?? A ripe Mayapple!

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(My actual face when I found it. The toddler was unimpressed.)

Come to find out, one of my favorite parks is full of Mayapple patches. I located about 15 patches, with dozens of plants. Out of that, I got 2 ripe fruits, and 3 green ones that I’m hoping will ripen on my counter.

*update- they do not seem to ripen when they are not attached to the plant, I would not recommend harvesting them green.

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Mayapple plants (on the left) growing next to the walking path.

My first bite of this mysterious and elusive deliciousness.

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The Mayapple (when ripe) has an intoxicatingly deep fruity, perfumey scent. The flesh has the consistency and flavor of banana, paired with the flavor of a very ripe pear and hints of guava & lemon. The tender skins have a stronger hint of lemon to them, with a sweetly pleasant tang. The membranes surrounding the seeds in the middle are even sweeter- a deep, perfumy essence with a touch of vanilla. But don’t be fooled by it’s alluring flavor- the seeds are considered poisonous. I sucked the middle part until I got as much of the membranes off as I could, and spit out the seeds in the woods in the hopes they will become another Mayapple patch next year. (Word of caution- eating too many Mayapples can cause digestive upset. Likely why nature was wise enough to have only one fruit per plant, and make multiple fruits so hard to find!)

What a great experience! I know herbalists who have gone years without ever getting to experience the delight of finding and enjoying this delicious Wisconsin treat.

So if you’re out and about this time of year- do watch for the Mayapples!

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One last shot of my favorite park. (Ooh, what is that in the bottom corner??) 😉

Thanks for visiting!

Megan Normansell, CHC, AADP, CFH

Certified Holistic Practitioner/Holistic Nutritionist/Herbalist/Wild Edibles Guide

Follow me on Facebook and Instagram for more recipes and healthy living ideas!

Get Even Healthier!
Get the answers you’ve been searching for, and heal your body for good… naturally and holistically. We have successfully helped thousands of people across the country live a healthier life than they ever could have imagined, and specialize in dozens of different health concerns. Curious? Schedule your complimentary consultation with me today! Read the incredible reviews we’ve received over the years here!

http://www.aayushealth.com – megan@aayushealth.com – 920-327-2221

Copyright Megan Normansell 2018