Maple trees already provide us with pretty much the greatest substance ever created– could their seeds taste phenomenal too? While they don’t taste exactly like maple syrup, they are nutty and abundant and best of all: free.
We have two big beautiful Autumn Blaze Maples in our yard, one right next to our house overhanging the patio and covering the cement every year with those unmistakeable helicopters.
Like all nut and seed processing, it is a little tedious, but for a fun seasonal treat (full of vitamins, minerals and good oils) shucking maple seeds is a worthwhile endeavor.
The trick to peeling the helicopter off of the seed is soaking it first (about an hour will do), then all it takes is ripping the center top rib of the helicopter off and popping the seed out. I think it took me less than 5 seconds to shuck each one… that is, once I figured out the most efficient way to do it.
As far as when to harvest maple seeds, you can eat them at any stage. But it seems that it makes the most sense to wait until they drop to the ground. Green ones would be harder to peel, and just like with most other nuts, seeds, and even fruits- you probably want to wait until they are fully ripe. So, the brown ones strewn all about our yard seemed like the best choice. I have heard that tree type and when the seeds are harvested can have an affect on bitterness. So, maybe taste one raw to make sure it’s edible before you shuck a whole bowl full. Or make a small test batch of roasted ones before you get too too carried away.
So, how did they taste? Raw they were just slightly nutty, soft, a touch grassy, and even a little plain. Roasted with salt they turned super nutty, a tiny bit bitter, like tannin-bitter, still a touch grassy, and they were very crunchy. Karl stated that he could faintly detect a taste of maple in the background.
Overall, quite good!
I would put them on a mixed green salad with my Maple Poppyseed Vinaigrette Dressing. Now that would be an impressive dish to serve! Salad with maple vinaigrette and hand-harvested maple seeds, next to a Spring vegetable quiche made with farm fresh eggs… sheesh!
Preheat oven to 250 degrees F. Toss maple seeds with oil, place on a baking sheet and then sprinkle evenly with salt. Bake for about 15 minutes or until just starting to brown.
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