This post serves as an introduction to some of the more common edible ferns in Sarawak. Recipes will be included in part 2 , 3 & 4 of this post.
On top of the list is the King fern, a.k.a Giant fern and Oriental Vessel Fern. Its botanical name is Angiopteris evecta. Look at the picture below. Everything about this Giant fern is massive. Their young fronds, for example, are as big as a baseball.
It is a large ground-dwelling fern with fronds up to 5 m long. The leaf blade is two pinnate. They have spore clusters(sori) which are submarginal. The massive starchy rhizome was eaten as a famine food in Papua New Guinea. Young fronds are edible. The Bidayuh people in Sarawak use the pounded rhizome to treat blood in stool. Since it is very laborious to dig out the hard and massive rhizomes, it becomes less popular as food but in Chinese Medicine, it is still being used as cure for internal bleeding.
The most popular edible fern – Paku midin(Stenochlaena palustris)
Since there is a King fern, by right there should be a Queen fern. In this case is Paku midin which is the most popular edible fern served in many food stalls and restaurants in Sarawak. It is also a GI plant of Sarawak, meaning it is very popular and widely found in the state. It is a creeping fern, often climbs up big trees. The young fronds are green but turn light brownish-red as they become more leafy and turns darker green as the leaves become more mature. Paku midin thrives in shady swampy and forest areas and has been shying away from the city area for the past 10 years. It is said that no trip to Kuching is complete without sampling a big plate of stir-fried midin. Midin and other ferns can be found in West Malaysia too.
Paku pakis or Paku ikan is like the Prince of the edible ferns in Sarawak. It grows up to 1-1.5m tall. The leaves are 2- or 3-pinnate and coarsely toothed. Paku ikan is quite popular in Philippines, Indonesia, Taiwan and Japan too. In Chinese is 过山猫。
Paku kubuk or Paku uban is the Princess of the Royal family of the edible ferns in Sarawak. Paku Kubuk is a one meter tall fern forming colonies in peat swamp forest. It has pinnate leaves and white hairy stems. Sori borne along leaf margins. The young fronds are eaten as vegetables. Though not as popular as Paku midin and Paku ikan, there are people who get addicted to its slightly bitter taste and I am one of them. Iban folks use this fern to stimulate milk production for mothers in confinement. Just boil the fronds to make soup.
This Paku kelindang is a stemless fern grows up to 2 m tall and it has brownish red fronds like the Giant Fern. Usually the venders here would peel the skin and sell in packs. Tastes slimy but good for constipation. The fronds are mashed and applied as a poultice on boils to draw out the pus.
Paku pahit or Paku rusa looks like Paku ikan but grows as individual plant. Due to its bitter taste, it is the least popular among the edible ferns but there are people using it as herbal cure for high blood pressure.
Out of all these ferns, only Paku midin has been cultivated for export purpose to Singapore. It is safe to state that all the edible ferns sold in the local markets are naturally organic therefore should be a tier higher than organic vegetables provided they are not plucked near oil palm plantation area. Almost all edible ferns cannot survive in chemically contaminated areas and they thrive without fertilizers.
Other edible ferns include Paku ayam, Paku resam, Paku laut, Paku merak, Paku rawan, Paku sutar(Tongkat langit), Paku ruan(water fern) and Bird’s nest fern.
Most of these unusual ferns are used as medicinal plants. Some of them will be included in my other posts. Nutritional values of these edible ferns can be found in Table 2.
So now we have viewed brief introduction to these more common edible ferns. In my next post you will get to view more pictures and recipes.
See you in my next post !
Remember to check for recipes in my upcoming posts !
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