Thursday, May 22, 2014

Purple Passion Flower, Aka The "Maypop" Vine

I've heard my late Mom mention that, as kids, she and her siblings sometimes ate "Maypops" during the summer. She said they grew wild at the edge of the woods and close to the barbed-wire fences.   I had no clue what she was talking about until recently.  

The Purple Passionflower vine produces large unique blooms with purple "fringes". It is common in open or cultivated fields, rocky slopes, thin woods, roadsides, fencerows and thickets. It is known by many other common names, including Maypop, Passion Vine, Holy Trinity flower and Pop Apple. The plants were given the name Passionflower or Passion vine because the floral parts were once said to represent aspects of the Christian crucifixion story, sometimes referred to as the Passion. The 10 petal-like parts represent Jesus disciples, excluding Peter and Judas; the 5 stamens the wounds Jesus received; the knob-like stigmas the nails; the fringe the crown of thorns. The name Maypop comes from the hollow, yellow fruits that pop loudly when crushed.

Native American tribes used purple passionflower for food, drink, and medicinal purposes.  The fruits were eaten either raw or boiled to make syrup. A beverage was made from the fruits by crushing and straining the juice. Sometimes the juice was thickened by mixing it with flour or cornmeal. The young shoots and leaves were eaten, cooked with other greens. The roots were used in an infusion to treat boils, and to “draw out inflammation” of wounds from briers or locusts. Babies were given a tea made from the roots to aid in weaning. The roots were beaten with warm water and used as eardrops to treat earaches. Root infusions were used to treat liver problems. Soaking the crushed roots in drinking water made a “blood tonic.” The plant was also used as a sedative to treat nervous conditions and hysteria. 

The plants bloom from Spring to September. Sweet-smelling, yellowish fruits develop in two to three months after flowering and may be harvested from July to October. The pulpy fruit, or “maypop”, is large and oval, about the size of a hen’s egg. The fruit contains many flattened, dark-colored seeds that are covered with a pulp, which is the edible portion of the fruit. 

This must be the "Maypop" fruit that Mom spoke of.  I bought the plant because I thought the flowers were so unique- different from anything else in the garden center.  I'll try the fruit when it's available just to explore its flavor...and think of Mom...

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