There are Ostrich Ferns in my back yard! Now I know for sure; because, I went on a Wild Edibles Walk with Blanche Cybele Derby on May 18th. She led us on a walk through the fields at Smith College’s MacLeish Field Station. Blanche shared freely from her decades of experience with wild edibles. We looked in detail at the Ostrich Ferns planted in the landscaping around the nature center building. Blanche taught us how to positively identify this fern. As you can see in the above photo; one fern was just past its prime for eating and the other (below) was already fully unfurled.
Mid April is usually the time to harvest these fiddle heads for cooking and eating. Ostrich Ferns grow in New England, other Eastern States, the Midwest, Canada, and Alaska. They come up about the same time the daffodils are blooming. A few weeks ago I enjoyed a dish of fiddle heads sourced from the Northampton Saturday Farmers Market. I prepared them with a little butter, after boiling them for 12 minutes, and topped them with local feta cheese. The recipe is simply named, Wild Fiddleheads with Feta. I’m new to eating this type of fiddlehead. I find them good with an interesting texture. Maybe I’ll grow more fond of them over time. I must say, though, their shape has me enthralled. I felt like I was eating fairy tale imagery. They have got to be catalytic nourishment for my imagination, heart, and soul!
Harvesting your own fiddleheads requires being “tuned in” to the timing of their emergence. The time to harvest lasts about two week. Good to plan ahead and get prepared. Now or even in the fall are perfect times to start noticing when you are around ostrich ferns that you might be able to pick from next spring. It is simple when you know what you’re doing! Isn’t that always the way? If you want to learn about harvesting fiddleheads of the ostrich fern, check out Blache Cybele Derby’s You Tube video.