Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Eating Ferns

For over a month I’ve been living in Talamanca, Costa Rica. In Talamanca, I spend most of my time cultivating and harvesting foods and many of these foods are new to my diet. Now, I am away from the forest for an ethnobiology congress where I’m discussing themes related to forests as sources of unique and important foods. Here is one example of foods I’ve been talking about!

What is a fern?

A fern is a type of plant and there are thousands of different kinds of them. The ferns in this picture are called “Ar” in Bribri, which is the language spoken where I’m working. The name Ar is actually a general term used to describe many different kinds of edible forest greens.

Where can you find ferns?

The ferns in the picture above can be found in tropical forests, but finding enough of them to make a meal isn’t always easy! Some Bribri women have taught me to look for these ferns in areas of the forest that are used for other activities, activities such as harvesting firewood or planting fruit trees.

What do these ferns taste like?

If you like asparagus you’d enjoy these ferns because that is what I think they taste like. People of all ages enjoy eating these ferns boiled and served with meat or other root veggies.

Are these ferns healthy?

I’m not sure for this specific fern, but my guess is yes. Women I’ve talked to love that these plants grow naturally and chemical free in the mountains. Yesterday a woman told me that although forest greens in Tanzania are low in calories they are high in micronutrients. Ferns are likely a source of important micronutrients for people who live near forests – especially where I’m living since this is one of the few greens we eat! 


Ahenkan A, & Boon E (2011). Improving nutrition and health through non-timber forest products in Ghana. Journal of health, population, and nutrition, 29 (2), 141-8 PMID: 21608423

Arnold, M, Powell, B, Shanley, P, & Sunderland, T (2011). Human health, food security and forests. International forestry review, 13(3), 259-264

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