Ostrich ferns on the floodplain

17 May


Ostrich fern (Matteuccia struthiopteris) at this stage in its growth this fern is considered unsafe to eat. Usually there will still be some younger plants suitable for eating as you move away from the water’s edge into shader areas often covered by last years layer of tall grass.



Here are some young edible (when cooked) Ostrich fern fiddleheads which  actually were the first wild plant I started to gather back in the late 70s as it was the only wild food local grocery stores in the surrounding small towns in my area were very eager to buy. In those days I would usually gather around 500 lbs of fiddleheads starting around mid May and ending a few days before June.


Another patch of almost full grown Ostrich ferns which again are now inedible but the green plants under the ferns are an interesting edible plant known as Trout-lily.


A closer look  at Trout-lily (Erythronium americanum), these plants have already lost their early blooming yellow flowers and a seed head has formed as you can see. Here is some more info on the Trout-lily from White Wolf’s  YouTube video if you are interested. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1kgO-k-P26A


Lastly here is the plant I actually came to this area to find today, as I’m looking for some seeds from some of last years stems to grow some tender young leaves. You’ve all seen this plant or its smaller relative around, below is a photo of one of the old last year stems, you may need to click on the photo to enlarge to notice the seed heads, it is a bit of an eye test. I’ll do a post on this plant a little later on..



7 Responses to “Ostrich ferns on the floodplain”

  1. LadyBlueRose's Thoughts Into Words May 18, 2013 at 1:08 am #

    always an inteIresting post…
    I did not know you could eat ostrich ferns….
    I would think bitter and scratchy going down…
    Thanks for the info!
    Take Care…

    • 1left May 18, 2013 at 11:24 am #

      Hi LBR, They are consider a spring delicacy here in eastern Canada, though now there is much more focus on the proper cooking preparation of the very young tightly curled up fronds of the Ostrich fern.
      Wiki has some current info on this and some other edible fiddlehead ferns. — en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fiddlehead_fern ciao

  2. Isaac Yuen May 18, 2013 at 3:08 am #

    What do they taste like? I’ve had fiddleheads before but I’m not sure if they were Ostrich fern heads or some other type of fern.

    • 1left May 18, 2013 at 11:48 am #

      Hi Isaac, Once the Ostrich fern fiddleheads are boiled or steamed for 15 to 20 minutes they taste similar to green beans with an asparagus texture. The water these fiddleheads are boiled in will turn green, brown or red according to the soil they were collected in. The range for Ostrich fern in N.A is almost all of Canada and Alaska and the Northeastern half of the USA. They were a very important spring revitilizer for the folks of northern regions of NA and especially so on the east coast due to being common on our river floodplains for the greater part of the last 10,000 years. ciao en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fiddlehead_fern

  3. mobius faith May 18, 2013 at 8:27 am #

    I’ve seen a lot of ostrich ferns lately. We also have a lot of trout-lily. I had no idea that trout-lily was edible. Thanks.

    • 1left May 18, 2013 at 12:02 pm #

      Hi mobius, This plant is rarely eaten probably due to it being a forest spring flower which disappears completely from sight in early summer.
      I am tempted to grow a patch of Trout-lily in the yard as it is an interesting plant I usually forget about until I find them while looking for other spring things. ciao

  4. Michael's Woodcraft August 9, 2013 at 10:49 am #

    Nice pictures, Ostrich ferns are cool. They grow really well in our area and this year they did better than ever due to all the rain we’ve had.

    Ostrich Ferns Gone Wild

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