This is a local fern with fiddlehead shoots that are quite delicious, tasting just like asparagus. While the indigenous people around here know where they grow in the forests, not many people grow them especially for harvest. A woman brought them to market several years ago, selling them by the dozen. Eventually we persuaded her to bring some plants and she brought 10 poor little things. Of the 10, 4 survived and now are doing – 4 years later – quite nicely spread around between the vanilla and the salak.
It’s very hard to find information on edible ferns and how to harvest them sustainably. We know by observation that they have a surface stem which divides into two – at the point where it splits a fiddlehead grows. Now – if we take those fiddleheads what does that do to the plant, stimulate new growth or rob it of energy? We do both and watch.
It took some research to determine that the fern we have is called rabo de mono, (Thelypteris sp), monkey’s tail. It’s a spiny thing, with fronds up to 5 foot long and very pretty with a gentle arch to them which bends them towards the earth. They do best in open, moist spaces, making the upper farm just about perfect with its circle of forest trees and soggy bottom.
We harvest just enough for supper and for a customer or two, making sure not to take all the shoots from any one area. And we wait to see just what the best way to harvest is. And of course we appreciate the beauty and value the fern brings to our daily walks through the farm.