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The fern is considered one of the oldest herbaceous plants. In total, there are more than 10,000 species of terrestrial and aquatic fern crops in the world. On the territory of the former USSR, there are about 100 varieties of them, among which there is also an edible fern. Despite the large number of useful properties, this plant is used in the modern world very little.
Is fern edible
Fern is a herbaceous perennial culture, one of the brightest representatives of the Osmund family. Outwardly, it looks like a green stem with pinnately dissected leaves. The homeland of the plant is the Far East, North China, Korea. Most often, ferns can be found in the forests of Central Asia, Russia and Ukraine, Mexico and Asia. But they also grow in deserts and swamps.
Some fern species are poisonous, but there are also quite edible specimens among them. In general, plants suitable for food are somewhat smaller in size compared to inedible plants. Ferns that are eaten are completely herbaceous, with a bright light green color, while poisonous ones have dark green foliage with red dots.
Attention! It is not recommended to eat the fern raw. Eating raw shoots will not lead to life-threatening conditions, but there is a high likelihood of mild poisoning.
Edible fern species
Ferns suitable for human consumption include the following varieties:
- Common bracken (Pteridium aquilinum). A distinctive feature of the variety is that the leaves of the plant are located singly (at a distance of about 1 m from each other), without forming bushes. They are connected underground by a long common root. Bracken grows in Siberia, the Far East, the Urals, and in the Moscow region.
- Common ostrich (Matteuccia struthiopteris). It differs from other ferns in the shape of a bush - the leaves are located at the top of the root (resembling a bulb) in a circular manner. This variety is widespread in central Russia, in Altai, in the Krasnoyarsk and Trans-Baikal Territories, in the Tyumen and Irkutsk Regions.
- Asian Osmunda (Osmunda asiatica). The characteristic features of this species are straight short stems, which are in a cover of fallen leaves and petioles. It is the most common type of edible fern in the Primorsky Territory.
Where does the edible fern grow?
Such an edible fern as Orlyak ordinary, prefers the low-mountainous relief of the European part of Russia. You can find it in the Moscow region, and in Siberia, and in the Far East and the Urals. Most often, it grows in light coniferous (pine) forests, in clearings and edges of deciduous (birch) and mixed forests. Often, beams, glades, clearings and burnt areas are completely overgrown with it. Ferns settle very quickly on abandoned agricultural lands and pastures.
Osmunda asiatica and Ostrich common are often found in dark coniferous plantations, while Orlyak practically does not grow there. Osmunda grows massively in the floodplain deciduous and mountain coniferous-broadleaf forests of the Primorsky Territory, Sakhalin and Kamchatka. The ostrich is widespread in the European part of Russia, in the North Caucasus and Altai, in the Amur region, Irkutsk and Tyumen regions. Its habitat is the floodplains of forests, damp places at the bottom of ravines and the banks of forest reservoirs.
What month can you collect ferns
The collection of edible ferns begins mainly in early May, when young shoots appear in areas well-warmed by the sun. They are called rakhises, at first there are not very many of them. The sprout making its way out of the ground has a twisted shape and looks like a snail. Rachises are poured with juice and reach up very quickly. Gradually, the young stem straightens, the curl unfolds, leaves appear on the crown. This happens in about 5-6 days.
Advice! The fern grows quite quickly, so it is important not to miss this period. Every day, not only will the number of rachises decrease, but their taste will also deteriorate, as a result they become unsuitable for consumption.
During growth, the edible fern goes through 5 successive stages:
- The emergence of seedlings. The shoot is twisted like a snail shell.
- Growing up. The petiole lengthens, the top rises above the ground.
- Eliminate bending. The sprout is pulled up and aligned. The top is still slightly rounded.
- Schilze. Completely straight petiole, no rounding.
- Tee. The leaves are unfolding.
The best time to collect and harvest edible ferns is when they are in stages 3-5. It was during this period that the cuttings are as juicy as possible. Later, they will become fibrous and tough.
Mass collection and harvesting of petioles can already begin by mid-May. It is important that the main part of young petioles is 3-4 stages. Otherwise, you can accidentally trample the sprouts that have not yet emerged, which will harm the future harvest.
How to collect ferns for food
Young unblown rachises with a petiole length of no more than 20-30 cm are harvested for food. The shoots are not cut with a knife, but simply broken off at a distance of 5 cm from the ground. All petioles must be the same color and size. If there are noticeable external differences, all prepared rachises must be sorted and grouped.
After collection, all sprouts should be collected in bunches, smoothed over the tops and bandaged from below (not tight). The ends of the petioles are aligned by cutting. You can also trim them a little just before eating. The harvested bundles can be laid out under the tree crowns. Do not stack them in a pile, as they can start to deteriorate from overheating. You can sprinkle the bundles a little with cool water. It is recommended to transport the harvested rachises as soon as possible, since edible ferns are not subject to long-term storage.
Fern, like mushrooms, absorbs various toxic substances from the soil. Accumulating in the shoots, they can negatively affect the body, therefore, the collection should be carried out in ecologically clean places located away from waste dumps, highways and industrial enterprises. Six-day-old petioles are considered the safest. Later, the concentration of toxins and other harmful substances in them significantly increases.
Attention! The main indicator of the safety of the edible fern is not the fragility of the shoots, but their growth. During the day, the sprout grows by an average of 6 cm, so at the age of five days its length should not be more than 25-30 cm.
Edible fern is a very healthy plant, the taste of which, when properly prepared, will surprise and delight even the most fastidious gourmet. Its taste directly depends on how well the shoots were harvested. Subject to all the rules and recommendations, the collection of edible fern will not cause any trouble and hassle.