By Harold McGee
Bracken-fern toxins cause several blood disorders and cancer in animals that graze on this common fern (Pteridium), which is sometimes collected in the young “fiddlehead” stage for human consumption. Ostrich ferns, Matteuccia species, are thought to be a safer source of fiddleheads, but there’s little solid information about the safety of eating ferns. It’s prudent to eat fiddleheads in moderation, and to avoid bracken ferns by checking labels and asking produce sellers.
From the book On Food and Cooking (2nd edition) by Harold McGee. © 2004 Harold McGee. By permission of Scribner, a division of Simon & Schuster, Inc.