Friday, August 26, 2011

Heard of a Maypop?

I learned something new when I was on my trip home.  I learned what a Maypop was.  Ever heard of one?

Yesterday, I showed you this photo of me and my sweet Mimi.

If you look in her hand, you'll see that she's holding something... and nope, it's not a lime.

It's a Maypop.

My lesson on Maypops began when Mimi spotted some plants Kent's dad had in his field.  She thought they were perhaps blackberry or blueberry bushes, and when she asked him what they were, she was surprised and delighted to find out that they were Maypops.  Evidently the mention of this plant gave her a flood of happy memories because she just started smiling and laughing.  Kent's dad was nice enough to go get her one, and it tickled her to death.

I soon learned from both my Mimi and Kent's dad that "back in the day" children would often play with Maypops to make little animals.  They would stick little sticks into the "fruit" to make legs.  Kent's dad said he played under his porch with his tractors in the summertime, and he would make whole herds of Maypop "cows" to work on his "farm."  I thought it all sounded really neat, so I was excited the next day to find that my Mimi had stuck toothpicks in hers to make a little animal.  I decided to take it a step further and surprise her by adding ears and eyes.  

Here's the result...
I thought it looked like an adorable little green hamster.

It also makes me wish kids today would use their imaginations more often and create their own toys out of the nature around them instead of relying on ready-made toys... but that's a rant for another day.

After learning what children used to do with Maypops, I decided to do a little research on them to learn exactly what this plant is, and I thought I'd share a little bit with you.  (The following information was mostly gathered from Wikipedia... not always the most reliable source, but I feel that this information was accurate.)

Their official name is "Passiflora incarnata,"  but it is also commonly called Maypop, Purple Passionflower, True Passionflower, Wild Apricot, and Wild Passion Vine.  It is one of the hardiest southern wildflowers, and the Cherokee in Tennessee called it ocoee, hence the Ocoee River and valley.  It is also the state wildflower of Tennessee.

The fleshy fruit of this flower is called the Maypop, and it's green at first but becomes orange as it matures. 

I also thought it was interesting that the fresh or dried whole plant has been used as an herbal remedy for nervous anxiety and insomnia.  In cooking, it can be used in jams and jellies, and can even be eaten as is for a tasty but very seedy snack.  Evidently, it was a favorite among Southern colonial settlers and Native Americans.  

Pretty cool, right?  Have any of you guys ever heard of a Maypop?  Or better yet, played with one?


  1. I have never heard of a Maypop, but I love the story of how your grandmother used to make animals out of them! What a creative idea! I agree with you about kids these days...but like you said, that's for another day, haha. I love stories of simple joys, especially ones coming out of southern childhoods. Of course not all southern stories are cheerful, but it's ones like these that seem to have a certain charm about them. Thanks for sharing!!

  2. We had maypops in our yard growing up and we made all kinds of animals from them. The thing that sticks in my mind the most was a saying my grandmother had about chubby women with skinny legs. She would always exclaim "she looks like toothpicks stuck in a maypop".


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