foraging for ferns

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Previously on the Sprout Diaries, I shared my first-ever experience with fiddlehead ferns. What’s really wild about these edible earthy swirls is that, with the right timing and the right knowledge, you can wander out into the woods and pick some for yourself! Unfortunately, I realized this too late in the season to do my own gathering. However, I did have the opportunity to learn a thing or two about ferns from a true fern expert. Last week, I followed Anthony’s dad around the arboretum he tends to in Kalamazoo, MI, and gained a greater appreciation for those tasty treats called fiddleheads.

According to Mr. Chase, Michigan’s ferns unfurled early this spring. Thankfully, we were still able to spot a couple fronds young enough to demonstrate how a fiddlehead gets its spiral shape.

The fiddleheads sold in markets come exclusively from the ostrich fern, which grows in a fountain-like formation (not unlike ostrich tail feathers) in woods all over the Great Lakes state. Eating the young of other varieties of ferns is very dangerous as they can be harmful to humans. Still, one can marvel at the rich variety of fern types by feasting with the eyes and not the stomach. Mr. Chase effortlessly identified twelve-or-so species growing in Briarwood Arboretum’s Fern Garden. Pictured below from left to right: Braken Fern, Sensitive Fern, Japanese Painted Fern, Tongue Fern (love the appropriateness of this name), Royal Fern, and Maidenhair Fern.

The Arboretum had other wonders to share, too, besides the ferns. Did you know ginger root grows natively in Michigan soil? You can identify the plant by its beautiful (and very geometric) russet-red flower.

We also saw a paw paw tree (still in its flowering stage!) and a lovely lake.

Thank you, Mr. Chase, for sharing your fern wisdom!

2 Comments Add yours

  1. Patty Chase says:

    Mr. Chase?!? – I think I know him. Watch out for him – he is the same Mr. Chase that will slip plants in your tulip bed when your back is turned – ferns included!

  2. Carol Hanko says:

    Claire – fun reading about ferns! Uncle Fred LOVES ferns and we have several in our flower gardens! You will have to check them out sometime!

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