Why New Yorkers Put this Toxic Plant on their Pancakes
Before Log Cabin, there was a different syrup to put on your pancakes. It was sweet, abundant, and free. Unfortunately, it's toxic, too.
There are too many fascinating plants in New York to count, from the carnivorous plants in upstate wetlands to the "dead man's fingers" that you can find poking through the local forest floor. Only one, however, was used as a breakfast condiment.
Wild Ginger in New York State
Meet asarum canadense, also known as wild ginger. The plant, which only carries a light scent of ginger, can be found all across the eastern United States, including right here in New York. Historically, the plant has been used as a medicine, but one "silver lining" of the plant stands out among the rest.
Wild Ginger Used as Pancake Syrup in New York
Apparently, eating pancakes in America dates back to pre-independence, and it was documented that settlers who were unable to get their hands on maple syrup would use wild ginger instead. Unfortunately, it came with a risk. From the National Parks Service (NPS):
This plant was once used by early Euro-American settlers in sugar water to make syrup for pancakes, but it was later found to be toxic to mammals, including humans, so it is not advised to be ingested.
Toxic Plants in New York State
Whoops. While early Americans may have had worse things put in their bodies ("here, drink this mercury and call me in the morning!"), toxic pancake syrup is never advised. Check out more poisonous (and safe) plants, including the way to identify poison hemlock below.