Ferns can be found growing all over Wisconsin. We know that there were ferns on earth 300 millions years ago (fossilized remains have been found). They’ve changed little since then. Today there are 12,000 species of ferns throughout the world and 68+ of those species found right here in Wisconsin. Most are large tree-like plants, some are even aquatic. Those native to the United States are usually found in the moist, acid soil of woodlands.
Once the ferns shoot up from the litter of the forest floor, it’s not long before they unfurl. The tightly curled fronds give them their nickname–fiddleheads. Don’t they look just like the scrolls carved on the peg heads of violins?
Did you know that many fiddleheads are delicious to eat? The fronds of the Ostrich Fern are particularly good. Look for these in the woods, or check in the produce section of your supermarket. Fiddleheads are sold by the pound for the brief time that they are available in spring. To cook them, just remove any brown scales before steaming. They are delicious as a vegetable side dish, or chilled atop a salad.
[Image: Courtesy of Flickr user ngawangchodron]