Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Fern tasting

'What little seedling abounds in the bush at the moment? I need about a hundred.' This was my request to Colleen, who lives up the road from the bach. Her property lies deep in the bush, amidst tall kauri, rimu, tanekaha and totara trees. 'Have a look at the hen and chicken ferns,' said Colleen, 'and look for the little 'chickens'. You can easily lift them off.'
She was right. I checked the ferns (known to Maori as mouki), the very ones that I grew from Colleen's seedlings a few years ago, and sure enough little babes were perching all over the fronds like green spiders.
As I held them, I felt a sense of wonder at the miracle of such delicate, tenacious life. They would be perfect to hand around at the talk I'm giving on 'Engaging with the sacred in nature.'
When I checked Andrew Crowe's 'Native Edible Plants of New Zealand', I discovered that the young curled shoots were a favourite relish for Maori. Among my ferns I found just one furry fiddlehead rising up from the middle. After stripping away the dark fuzz and steaming it, I enjoyed a delectable snack: bitter in the very inside of the coil, but surprisingly sweet as I made my way to the base. Bush asparagus! I think spring must be the season of surprises.


joan browning said...

So interesting that the little shoots are edible Juliet. I will have a nibble when I next see some little chickens. How much I am learning.

Marilyn & Jeff said...

Another lovely post, I think all of our ferns are so special; the wee new ferns on the hen and chicken are wonderful, so beautifully formed and ready to start life on their own. I did know that new fern shoots could be eaten but haven't tried it myself yet. I think Andrew Crowe's books are a must to have.

Juliet said...

Hi Marilyn and Joan, do make sure you eat the spiral shoot coming out of the centre of the parent plant, and not the little 'chickens'. Thank you for your interest, and happy tasting.

Anonymous said...

Oh so delectable a read! Our ferns are bushed from the heat, all brown and scraggly and on their last legs as we approach autumn. I love to see the fronds as they coil out in spring and wonder if those up here are as tasty. I will do some investigating on this come winter and will bear in mind, should I try a taste, to leave the little "chickens" alone.

Juliet said...

I get such a sense of the contrast between our two hemispheres when I read your comments Penny. That dry stage seems so long ago as we wake up with the earth rain drenched every day.