The fiddle-head ferns

The fiddle-head ferns

Posted by Tammy Sons on 15th Nov 2018

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The fiddle-head ferns

The fiddleheads 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.

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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.

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The ostrich fern is the recommended fiddlehead 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.

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