This week we will explore Indian Cucumber (Medeola Virginiana). Indian Cucumber grows in the forest usually on slopes or near creeks in small colonies. When mature it has two levels of circularly arranged leaves, and stands about 12 inches at most, often flowering when only 6 inches tall
During some times of the year you can smell cucumbers when walking past a patch in the woods. Interestingly people also say copperheads (which share the same habitat as Indian Cucumber) smell like cucumbers. I can’t say I’ve actually found this to be true. While many times in the woods I have smelled a cucumber like smell, and not always near any Indian Cucumber, I have also never found a copperhead that I thought smelled like cucumbers.
The medicinal uses of Indian Cucumber appear to be minimal and obsolete. All I have found is that the berries were used by the Iroquois to treat convulsions in infants. I was not able to find an original source for this claim and it does not appear in modern herbalism texts.
Indian Cucumber is an edible plant with roots that taste almost exactly like cucumber but without the slimy, round flavored qualities that make typical cucumbers disgusting. The roots are crisp and sweet, but also quite small. Due to the size and the time it takes this slow growing plant to produce its root it is not generally considered a good wild food source. In many parts of the country this plant is considered rare and harvest is discouraged. It is a nice taste of wild food, however it would require a great number of plants to make a meal and in the end all you would have eaten is essentially a meal of cucumber.