Maple seeds, also known as samaras or “helicopters” due to their spinning seed pods, are a familiar sight in late spring and early summer. These seeds come from maple trees, most commonly sugar maple, red maple, and silver maple trees. While the maple seeds may look edible, you may wonder, can humans eat maple seeds?
Can You Eat Maple Seeds?
Yes, maple seeds are edible for humans. The seed pods and nuts inside maple seeds are not toxic or poisonous. Maple seeds have been eaten for centuries by Native American tribes like the Iroquois, who used them as a nutritious snack food.
While totally edible, maple seeds don’t offer much in the way of nutritional value. The seeds are high in carbohydrates but do not contain significant protein, vitamins, or minerals. Due to their mild, slightly woody taste, maple seeds are not cultivated as a major food crop. But as a foraged trailside nibble, maple seeds are a safe bet.
Are Maple Seeds Toxic?
Maple seeds and their nuts are not at all poisonous or toxic to humans. There are no toxins present that could cause an adverse reaction from eating maple seeds. However, some people may experience mild gastrointestinal upset if they eat maple seeds in excess. This is due to the high fiber content more than anything toxic in maple seeds, though.
Maple seeds are safe for most people to eat, including children and pregnant women. As with any new or foraged food, it’s wise to eat just a small amount at first to check for allergies.
Nutritional Profile of Maple Seeds
So what nutrients are found inside those whirlybird maple seeds? Here is the nutritional breakdown for a 100g serving of maple seeds:
As you can see, maple seeds are high in carbohydrates and fiber, with decent amounts of fat and protein. They offer small amounts of vitamins and minerals, primarily vitamin A, calcium, and iron. Overall, the nutritional benefit of eating maple seeds is rather low.
Maple Seed Nutrition Compared to Other Nuts
How do maple seeds compare to more popular nut varieties in terms of nutrition?
|Nutrient (per 100g)
As you can see from the table, maple seeds are much lower in fat and protein compared to popular nuts like almonds, cashews, and pistachios. Maple seeds have more carbohydrates and fiber, along with small amounts of calcium. Overall, most other nuts offer more nutritional value than maple seeds.
Taste and Texture
What do maple seeds actually taste and feel like to eat? The outer seed pods are quite tough and woody. You’ll want to remove the outer shell to access the inner seed nutmeat inside. This can be done by cracking the seed pod open with your teeth or hands.
The nutmeat has a very mild, somewhat sweet flavor. The texture is a bit mealy or starchy once you get past the outer shell. Maple seeds don’t have an overt maple flavor; the taste is somewhat nondescript and forgettable.
Some describe eating the nuts straight from the seed pods as similar to munching on a pencil eraser! The fibrous, dry texture isn’t all that enjoyable. For this reason, maple seeds are best used in recipes where they are chopped, ground, or processed in some way.
How to Eat Maple Seeds
Wondering how you can eat those maple seeds drifting down from the trees? Here are some options for using maple seeds in edible ways:
– Chopped or ground into baked goods like muffins, cookies, breads
– Toasted and sprinkled on yogurt, cereal, salads
– Pureed into a maple seed butter
– Infused into maple seed oil
– Simmered into a warm cereal like maple seed porridge
– Pickled for a crunchy, tangy snack
– Coated in chocolate or candied like nuts
The mild flavor of maple seeds means they work well in recipes with stronger flavors like chocolate or warm spices. Try chopping maple seed nuts and adding them to trail mixes and granola for some crunch. Grinding them into a flour can add fiber and nutrition to baked treats.
Foraging Maple Seeds
Maple seeds are very easy to forage in most temperate forests and areas with maple trees present. Late spring and early summer are the prime times to harvest maple seeds.
Identify maple trees by their classic lobed leaves and furrowed bark. Sugar maples will have rounded leaves with U-shaped notches. Watch for the helicopter seeds to start falling from the branches.
Collect the fresh green seeds before they dry out on the ground. Look for seeds with the wings still attached, which indicates freshness. Remove any worms or insects. Store refrigerated in an airtight container and use within a few weeks.
Purchasing Maple Seeds
Foraging your own maple seeds is the cheapest way to obtain them. However, you can also purchase maple seeds from specialty foraging sites and nurseries:
– Foraged maple seeds are available on Etsy for around $15 for 8 ounces.
– Nurseries like Sheffields Seed Company sell maple seeds for approximately $8 per pound.
– Some gourmet food sites offer maple seed products like seed flour, butter, and candy.
Due to their short harvest season, maple seeds are a specialty item. Prices tend to be on the higher side to account for the effort of collecting and processing such a seasonal foraged food.
Storing Maple Seeds
To get the longest shelf life out of foraged or purchased maple seeds, proper storage is key. Here are some tips:
– Refrigerate seeds in an airtight container to prevent molding. High humidity ruins maple seeds quickly.
– For long term storage up to 12 months, keep seeds chilled at 32-40°F.
– Freeze seeds for storage periods greater than one year.
– Store the seeds with their wings still attached until ready to use.
– Check periodically for moisture and any insect damage. Discard any compromised seeds.
With ideal storage conditions, maple seeds can keep for 1-2 years before their flavor and texture fade. The high oil content means they turn rancid more quickly than most nuts.
Are Maple Seeds Safe for Dogs?
Some dogs will nibble on fallen maple seeds they find outdoors. But are maple seeds safe and healthy for dogs to eat?
In moderation, maple seeds are not toxic or dangerous to dogs. The high fiber content may cause gastric distress if a dog consumes too many. Make sure to remove any moldy seeds.
While not poisonous, maple seeds offer minimal health benefits for dogs. They provide carbohydrates for energy, but lack protein, fat, vitamins and minerals.
Occasional nibbling on a few maple seeds is fine. But rely on more nutritious commercial dog foods for the bulk of your pet’s diet. Check with your vet if signs of stomach upset occur after eating maple seeds.
Risks of Eating Maple Seeds
On the whole, maple seeds are perfectly safe to eat. But some risks and precautions include:
– Choking hazard from hard, woody shells if not chewed thoroughly. Take care when giving maple seeds to small children.
– Upset stomach or intestinal distress from eating large quantities. Fiber and carbohydrates in seeds may cause gas or bloating.
– Allergic reactions in those with tree nut allergies. Those with sensitivities to nuts should exercise caution.
– Parasites or insect eggs being present on foraged seeds. Proper cleaning and storage helps avoid this.
– Mold growth or rancidity from improper storage. Check old seeds for moisture and weird odors.
When eaten in moderation by most people, maple seeds do not pose any major health risks. But take care with foraged seeds and pay attention to your body’s reaction.
Maple Seed Recipes
Here are some tasty ways to use up foraged or store-bought maple seeds:
Maple Seed Granola
– 3 cups rolled oats
– 1 cup chopped maple seeds
– 1/2 cup sliced almonds
– 1/4 cup vegetable oil
– 1/4 cup maple syrup
– 1 teaspoon cinnamon
– 1/2 teaspoon salt
1. Preheat oven to 300°F.
2. In large bowl, mix all ingredients together until well coated.
3. Spread mixture on a rimmed baking sheet.
4. Bake for 30 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes.
5. Remove from oven and let cool completely before storing in an airtight container.
Maple Seed Flour Muffins
– 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
– 1/2 cup maple seed flour
– 2 teaspoons baking powder
– 1/4 teaspoon salt
– 1/4 cup vegetable oil
– 1/3 cup maple syrup
– 1 egg
– 1/2 cup milk
1. Preheat oven to 400°F. Line a 12-cup muffin tin with paper liners.
2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flours, baking powder and salt.
3. In a large bowl, beat together oil, maple syrup, egg, and milk.
4. Add dry ingredients to wet and stir just until combined.
5. Scoop batter into prepared muffin cups, filling each about 3/4 full.
6. Bake for 18-20 minutes until lightly browned.
Maple Seed Brittle
– 1 cup maple seeds
– 1 cup sugar
– 1/4 cup water
– 1 tablespoon butter
– 1/8 teaspoon salt
1. Lightly grease a baking sheet and set aside.
2. In a heavy saucepan, combine the sugar and water. Bring to a boil over medium heat.
3. Cook until the mixture reaches 300°F on a candy thermometer.
4. Remove from heat and stir in the maple seeds, butter, and salt.
5. Pour onto prepared baking sheet. Allow to cool completely before breaking into pieces.
While not a staple food source, maple seeds are a fun edible that can be foraged or purchased. The seeds are completely safe for humans to eat and provide small amounts of nutrients like fiber, fat, and carbs. Enjoy maple seeds as a snack, or get creative in recipes like granola, muffins, and brittle. Just be mindful of their choking hazard, especially for small children. With their short harvest season and mild flavor, maple seeds add seasonal interest to the foraging calendar.