In Grandma Anna’s Bay: Jungle of Ostrich Ferns

On the homestead we have about 5 acres of woods and lake front property which includes a wooded bay that my great grandma Anna would often take a stroll through. Descending the hill in the summer it feels like you are entering a jungle of some kind with the hundreds of ferns, all different kinds, that cover the ground floor. It’s a rather spectacular sight but wouldn’t be nearly as spectacular without the ostrich fern. I remember as a kid how fun it was to wade through them since they were almost as tall as me at the time. They certainly have multiplied since then! It’s this time of year that they are just beginning to poke through the ground and the carpet of last year’s leaves, and soon they will start unfurling their fronds.

Last year was the first time I heard that baby ostrich fern fronds, called fiddleheads, actually are rather tasty. Yea, they are edible! Who would’ve thought… A gardening friend enlightened me last year. She actually fries the fiddleheads into an omelet of all things. This year was the first time I tried them and they are really quite good; remind me a lot of asparagus. They are harvested when they are curled up tight (before they start to unfurl). The earlier the better for the tenderest stalk. Because they often need to be harvested all at once my friend actually pops the ones she can’t use fresh into freezer to use later. Brilliant!

Ostrich ferns tend to grow under the canopy of trees and near a body of water. I have seen that they do best in rich humous soil with a good amount of sun, but with afternoon shade so the fronds don’t get singed by the sun.

FernHere is an ostrich fern just waking up from its winter slumber.

FernA couple ostrich ferns showing a bit of green.

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An ostrich fern I potted that is slowly unfurling its fronds. It is at this stage that you can harvest the fronds to eat.

FernThe ostrich fern can get pretty tall as you can see. Normally they reach two feet, but I’ve seen some twice that tall.

FernAnd from this photo you can perhaps see why they have been so-named the ostrich fern… for its resemblance (as much as a plant can resemble a mammal that is) to an ostrich feather.

FernSee what I mean? Looks like a jungle in our bay!