Indian Cucumber

It is possible to walk right past food in the forest without ever knowing it.  Not every wild edible is as noticeable as a tree full of ripe apples.  One such plant that might be passed by without taking note of it despite its edibility is Medeola virginiana, better known as Indian cucumber.

  • The edible portion of Indian cucumber is the tuberous root which tastes somewhat like a cucumber, hence the  name.
  • It does not require cooking to be edible, though since it grows in the dirt you probably do want to clean it thoroughly before eating it.
  • Though the individual roots are not large, the plants tend to grow in numbers large enough to justify harvesting.
  • While you can’t choose when you will be hungry in the wild, Indian cucumber tubers are best harvested in the fall. Their foliage will still make them easily recognizable and the roots will be at their maximum size and maturity.
  • The roots are fragile so be careful when harvesting them so that you do not break them and lose your potential food.
  • There is a plant called “star flower” that grows in similar areas and resembles Indian cucumber, but star flower is not edible. Be careful not to accidentally harvest and eat star flower instead.  The most notable difference between the plants is that Indian cucumber has two “layers” of leaves or two points along the plants vertical stem that the leaves grow from, star flower leaves will only grow from one point.  The other main difference is in their flowers, Indian cucumber flowers hang down towards the ground like a bell when the plant is mature, but star flower flowers point upright.  Think of the flowers of the Indian cucumber as pointing towards food, the star flowers point away.
  • The Indian cucumber also produces an inedible berry. Remember, only the roots should be eaten.

The wilderness can seem to be a barren wasteland devoid of any useful resources if you don’t know what to look for.  But the more wild edibles you can recognize the better your chances of survival are.

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