ferns are familiar plants having graced parlors and porches since
Victorian times, there’s a certain feeling of magic to them
when encountered in the woods. In the early spring they rise like
wispy, spirited musicians presenting tightly scrolled stems resembling
the heads of fiddles.
unfurling into feathery fronds, the fiddleheads can be a delicious
addition to a dinner menu. However, not all ferns are edible. In
North America the safest to consume is the ostrich fern (Matteuccia
struthiopteris), which can be identified by a U-shaped groove,
like a celery stalk, on the side of the stem that faces toward the
coiled top. Be kind to the fern population and harvest less than
half of the fiddleheads from a plant to ensure future cycles of
couple of other ferns are considered edible but must be cooked.
However, it is still debatable whether or not the bracken fern (Pteridium
aquilinum syn. Pteris aquilina) is edible. Needless
to say, when in doubt as to the identity of a fern, don’t
or not you are interested in ferns as a delicacy, there’s
a lot of magic afoot in fernland. First of all, early spring is
a special in between time. While many plants herald the fullness
of nature that is to come, ferns announce the return of the fairies
from their sidhe at Beltane. Ferms mark a simple wooded area by
day and a magical fairyland by night. In full summer, these graceful
bowers of Queen Mab will stand in filtered sunlight and cast spells
of dreamy beauty.
to legend, a woodland fern produces a breathtakingly beautiful flower
once a year. At the stroke of midnight on Midsummer’s Eve
it blooms only for an instant. For anyone lucky enough to pluck
it at that moment, it will lead the way to hidden treasure.
alas, for those of us who do not find the flower there is always
magical rings of ferns. If you find one, sit or stand quietly in
the center and expect the unexpected.