Economic Botany

, Volume 38, Issue 1, pp 14-23

Economic history of ostrich fern,Matteuccia struthiopteris, the edible fiddlehead

  • Patrick von AderkasAffiliated withNational Research Council of Canada, Atlantic Research Laboratory

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Although the ostrich fern, Matteuccia struthiopteris,is distributed throughout much of the Northern Hemisphere, its consumption as a spring vegetable has been largely restricted to the tables of the Maritime Provinces in Canada and neighboring Maine in the United States. However, in little more than a decade the demand has expanded beyond these traditional boundaries, due to the present availability of the frozen product. The heart of the industry is undoubtedly New Brunswick. The harvest of 200 t/yr is approximately 4 times that of Maine, and from an historical vantage the traditional use as a spring vegetable is with the New Brunswickers as well. In light of the present high demand for the product and the reports of localized overpicking, a review of the economic history, resource management and attempts at cultivation is presented.