Eat Your Weeds: Foraging for and Eating Maple Seeds

Maple seeds.
Recently, I was dismayed to discover my 7 year old eating maple seeds. "They're delicious!" she said. I gave her a very stern lecture about eating plants we don't know are safe to eat. Then I went online to see if she'd poisoned herself. It turns out, however, that not only are maple seeds perfectly edible, they are delicious, too.

If you have maple trees in your yard or neighborhood, no doubt you've noticed tons of seed pods on the ground every spring. Gather them when they look full but are still green. The ones on the ground are fine as long as they meet these requirements, but it's better to collect them from tree branches.

All maple seeds are edible, but some may taste more bitter than others. Generally speaking, if they are large, they are more bitter; if they are small, they are sweeter. (You can also eat the seeds when the pods are brown, but they will require cooking to remove their bitterness.)

Maple seed pods.
Once the pods are picked, they easily peel away from the inner seeds. (Actually, the pods are edible, too, so you might want to give them a try before tossing them.) You can now eat the seeds as is, if desired. My kids munch on them like other kids eat sunflower seeds. Or, if the seeds are bitter, bring a pot of water to a boil and dump the seeds in. When the water returns to a boil, drain and repeat. You can keep doing this until the bitterness is gone. Once cooked, try seasoning them with salt and pepper; add a little butter, if you like.

You may also roast maple seeds: Place them in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Season. Roast at 350 degrees F. for about 5 to 10 minutes, or until toasted.

If you'd like to save maple seeds for later in the season, try dehydrating them until crunchy. Use a dehydrator setting of 105 degrees F. (A dehydrator is best, but if you don't have one, place the seeds in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet and place in the warming drawer of an oven until crunchy. Or, put them in the oven at it's lowest setting.) Dehydrated seeds can be ground into flour, if you're feeling ambitious.

From experience  I can tell you not all maple seeds taste the same, so if you find the seeds poor-tasting, don't be afraid to try again. Our red leaf maple has pods that taste lemony and the seeds are really too small to bother removing from the pods. Other maple seeds taste like peas. Others have their own unique flavor.

I'm just delighted to know I can do something with the abundance of pods that rain down on us each spring!

WARNING: If you are allergic to nuts, maple seeds may cause an allergic reaction.


  1. So red maple seeds are edible? Good!

  2. I know seeds are edible ,I didn't know if you had to boil them,like acorns to remove the tannins. Thanks for the education.

  3. Is the samara or seed of Acer pseudoplatanus safe for people to eat as a snack? I have read that it is on some websites but others report it is toxic for horses. If not is there any maple trees trees that produce seeds poisonous to people?

  4. I do not know if sycamore seeds (Acer pseudoplatanus)or fruit (samara)are safe to eat. My research shows all maple seeds should be safe for human consumption, but I encourage you to do your own research, as I am not an expert. What is toxic for certain animals is not necessarily toxic for humans. Again, I am not a foraging expert, so I encourage you to find one.