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  • Writer's pictureRobert Adams

Fiddleheads and Ferns

Updated: 1 day ago

I’VE BEEN HELPING MY GIRLFRIEND plant her annual spring garden. This past week we became so excited to see ferns emerging from last fall’s transplants which we had placed near one of her big maple trees. I was a little nervous that Mother Nature wouldn’t support our new location but thankfully she delivered an array of newly minted fiddleheads and fronds coming from last fall's rhizomes for our pleasure and enjoyment.

They are amazing plants. I’ve had fun reading about them. My few hours on the web have unearthed a vast inventory of knowledge that overwhelms me. With an estimated 15,000 worldwide species that are somehow related, I’ve decided that taxonomists truly earn their keep and possess knowledge that I guess only a mother could love.

A tidbit I discovered: Ferns propagate by microscopic spores which 300 million years ago was the first step to the next generational plants that had evolved and began producing "seeds" to carry on the species.

I'll bet you didn’t know that!

Ferns, as they emerge in the spring in their “fiddlehead” stage, offer potentially delectable culinary treats for those interested in foraging in northern Michigan. The question seems, what do they taste like? “Fiddleheads are sweet like asparagus, grassy and snappy like a great green bean, with a touch of broccoli stem.” Food and Wine Magazine. For my money, I’m sticking with asparagus because I know where the roadside stands are, and caution seems to be on every page about foraging for ferns and mushrooms.

For my effort and good health, I’m simply enjoying the ferns' ornamental beauty and their spectacular relationship with the sun and wind and not worrying about preparing and eating the sprouting fiddleheads.

At least, not this year.

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