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Fiddlehead Fern, Matteuccia Struthiopteris
The Fiddlehead Fern are furled fronds. Those of a young fern, to be exact. A frond is a large divided leaf, and some botanists restrict the use of the term to the fern group of plants. The fiddleheads are green in color. They are harvested for primary use as a vegetable. Before opening and reaching its full height early in the season, the fiddlehead ferns are harvested by cutting them fairly close to the ground.
The fiddleheads bloom in the spring, where they can then be foraged or commercially harvested, thus making them seasonally available. Recommendation is to take only half of the tops per cluster or plant when picking the fiddlehead ferns. This makes for a sustainable harvest. The season for picking, however, is short. It is about two weeks in a given area. There are three good identifying characteristics. The stem is smooth and green. They have a deep groove on the inside of the stem, shaped much like the letter ‘U.’ Lastly, they will have a brown, paper-like covering when just emerging from the crown.
When it comes to planting your own fiddlehead ferns, average to fertile soil is key. All the better if the soil is humus rich and in the range of neutral to acidic. They prefer light or partial shade, but can tolerate full shade or full sun if the soil is moist enough. It is critical that the ferns have moisture. Scorching of the leaves may occur if the soil happens to not be moist enough. In the wild, the ferns are found growing by rivers and streams. That gives way to the idea of having a woodland style garden that is exceptionally moist. If you happen to have a garden bed near a downspout for your gutter, you will find that the ferns thrive quite well there.
The ostrich fern is the recommended fiddlhead fern variety. Ostrich ferns form a circular cluster of feathery fronds that are slightly arching. They are stiff, brown, fertile fronds that are covered in reproductive spores. They stick up the center of the cluster in late summer and persist well through the winter. One final note, be sure to let your plants establish for a few years before harvesting.
The Fiddlehead Fern is a nice winter plant. Some cultures harvest the small Fiddlehead Fern plants to eat as a vegetable. Blooms and comes up in early spring. Good source of vitamin A and C. The plant needs to be cooked and can’t be eaten raw or it can cause sickness. This fern normally sticks around until the last frost. The plant grows about 4 feet long. The plant also prefers partial shade to keep it moist.
A young, edible, tightly coiled fern frond that resembles the spiral end of a violin. Fiddlehead ferns are a rich, deep green color and are about 2 inches long and 11⁄2 inches in diameter. They have a flavor akin to an asparagus-green bean-okra cross and a texture that’s appealingly chewy.
Mature Height: 3-6 ft.
Mature Width: 5-8 ft.
Growth/Year: 3-6 ft.
Sunlight: Partial to Full Shade
Soil Conditions: Adaptable to various Soils
Botanical Name: Matteuccia Struthiopteris
Ships As: Bareroot Plant
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