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The Ostrich Fiddlehead Fern

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  • The Ostrich Fiddlehead Fern

    I had a nice day in the woods yesterday and came home with a bunch of Ostrich Fern Fiddleheads. It's that time of year to see them popping up and I wanted to take advantage of it. Within an hour I had more then enough for the wife and I. They don't taste like "Chicken" lol, but do have a slight spinach flavor.

    Alot of people are mistaken thinking that all Fiddlehead ferns are the same, but this isn't true. Hopefully, for those interested I can do a good job of explaining with the help of some pictures I took while collecting them.

    The type that I picked yesterday are safe. They are called the Glossy form of Ostrich Fern Fiddlehead. (Matteucia Struthiopteris) They have some brown flaking on them, the stem has a deep u/v that runs the entire length which faces the center of the cluster. They don't grow straight up, instead they grow up, out and curl back in. River bottoms are ideal locations to find them as are along old forest roads. The clusters grow up out of a single brown colored bulb. Some might have three in a cluster while others might have as many as eight. You should NEVER pick them all from the cluster. For ex...If there are 3 in a cluster I will only take one and if there are eight I will only take 4. Be kind to the plant by doing this and it will pay you back next year. Also be VERY careful when picking because it is very easy to step on smaller ones you can't see. As far as cooking goes please google seeing that everyone has different ideas. We cleaned ours under cool water and went through the process of blanching them, then made them like spinach. The "Ostrich" name comes from what some people think the actual fern plume looks like...An Ostrich plume of feathers. In the photographs you can see this in the brown ferns from last year.

    I will place some photos below showing the things I explained above and then post about the ones you want to avoid after that also followed by some photos.

    Please note in the pictures below the deep u/v in the stem facing inward, the brown flaking scales, glossy green color/smooth texture, brownish bulb it grows out of and the way the stem grows up, then out and then curls back in again. These are the characteristics you want to look for.

  • #2
    Now for the ones BEST AVOIDED to be on the side of caution. I honestly don't know how people mistake the bad from the good, but hey...we all make mistakes.

    The ones to avoid are called the Cinnamon and Interrupted Fern Fiddleheads. They can grow in the same location, but have VERY different characteristics. To start with, they have a wooly coating which is a dead give away. The stems grow straight up and as seen in a picture I took from the top after cutting the heads off the stem is round without the deep u/v in the stem.

    I hope this helps explain the differences. Now get out and look for some! They are more common in the midwest. Michigan, Ohio, Wisconsin, Illinois and Minnesota I believe.


    • #3
      In my opinion all other ferns could be deadly except for "osterich". Please be careful not to get the wrong ones.

      The "osterich" fern (Matteuccia struthiopteris) is the only non-carcinogenic fern. Although several ferns are suspected of causing cancer, there may also be some that are downright poisonous as farm animals are known to avoid them.


      • #4
        great pics and info as usual

        The best thing you can do to support the site is pass it on to your friends and fav sites like other forums, facebook, twitter etc. Let people know about us! :)


        • #5
          Great info, Thanks for posting the pictures too.


          • #6
            Thanks you guys, I hope you found this useful.


            • #7
              Very useful! Thanks, you are always good about posting the pics! Kudos!
              If the zombies chase us, Im tripping you!!!


              • #8
                Originally posted by maric View Post
                Very useful! Thanks, you are always good about posting the pics! Kudos!
                Thank you, I know how pictures help me so I'm sure there are others out there that feel the same.


                • #9
                  Great write up, thanks.

                  Things are seldom what they seem.


                  • #10
                    Your Welcome!