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Oxford Companion to Food

Oxford Companion to Food

By Alan Davidson

Published 2014

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ferns provide, from their young shoots and sometimes their roots, a minor vegetable food in many parts of the world.

One fern product constitutes a wild delicacy in the northern USA and Canada. This is fiddleheads, the young shoots of the ostrich fern, Matteuccia struthiopteris, and the cinnamon fern, Osmunda cinnamomea. The common name refers to the resemblance between the tightly curled shoots and the scroll on a violin head. The practice of eating them is said to have been introduced by French settlers, taking their cue from American Indians. Fiddleheads, which can be had canned or frozen, are usually boiled; the flavour has been described as resembling a blend of broccoli, asparagus, and globe artichoke.