Plant Magic: Wisdom from the Green World

Whether you live in a city or the countryside, the magic of plants can be found everywhere and sometimes where you least expect it. Be open and explore the magic that surrounds you.

  • Home
    Home This is where you can find all the blog posts throughout the site.
  • Tags
    Tags Displays a list of tags that have been used in the blog.
  • Bloggers
    Bloggers Search for your favorite blogger from this site.
  • Login
    Login Login form

Woodland Magic You Can Eat

Early spring is a special time for many reasons and one of them is the fiddlehead fern. Although ferns are common houseplants that have graced parlors and porches since Victorian times, there’s a magical aura about them when encountered in the woods. At this time of year, young ferns rise like wispy, spirited musicians presenting tightly scrolled stem tops that resemble the heads of fiddles.

Before unfurling their feathery fronds, these plants are a delicious addition to the dinner menu. They have a flavor all their own like a delicate mix of asparagus, spinach, and nuts. As always, care must be taken when gathering them in the wild because not all ferns are edible. The safest type is the ostrich fern (Matteuccia struthiopteris), which can be identified by a U-shaped groove (like a celery stalk) on the side of the stem that faces toward the coiled top.

The ostrich fern thrives in moist shady areas and stream banks. Be mindful of sustainability and harvest only a few fiddleheads from an individual plant to ensure future cycles of growth. While a couple of other ferns are considered edible, it is still debatable whether or not the bracken fern (Pteridium aquilinum syn. Pteris aquilina) is safe. Needless to say, when in doubt about a plant’s identity, don’t eat it.

Of course, you can always check the produce section of your local supermarkets or specialty stores for fiddleheads. Look for ones that are bright green with as little browning on the edges as possible. When they become too brown, they develop a bitter taste. Even when stored in the fridge, fiddleheads have a very short shelf life, so it’s best to eat them right away. Remove any papery skin, rinse them a couple of times in cold water, and then drain.

While fiddleheads can be steamed or boiled, sautéing in butter or olive oil brings out their delicate flavor. Sauté them with garlic and morel mushrooms for a memorable pasta topping. They go well in egg dishes, too. A few herbs that go nicely with fiddleheads include basil, rosemary, tarragon, and thyme. Rich in antioxidants, these woodland treats provide vitamin C, niacin, and potassium.

Whether or not you are interested in ferns as a delicacy, there is a lot of magic afoot in fernland at this time of year. First of all, early spring is a special in-between time. In addition to heralding the fullness of nature that is to come in summer, ferns also announce the return of the fairies from their sidhe. Ferns demarcate a simple wooded area by day and a magical fairyland by night. In full summer, these graceful bowers of Queen Mab stand in filtered sunlight casting spells of dreamy beauty.

According to legend, a special type of woodland fern produces a breathtakingly beautiful flower once a year. At the stroke of midnight on Midsummer’s Eve it is said to bloom only for an instant. For anyone lucky enough to pluck it at that moment, it will lead the way to hidden treasure. But alas, for those of us who do not find the flower there are always magical rings of ferns. If you find one, sit or stand quietly in the center and expect the unexpected.

If you cannot get out to woods in early spring, there’s always the houseplant. The Boston fern (Nephrolepis exaltata) is the most common indoor ferns and cousin to the woodsy male fern (Dryopteris filix-mas). Neither of these ferns is edible.

Place a fern on or beside your altar for help in connecting with the fairy realm. Aligned with the elements air and earth, ferns can lighten and lift energy as well as keep you grounded. Save a few dried fronds when you prune the plant. These can be burned to clear negative energy and banish unwanted spirits. Also use them in protection spells against hexes.


Last modified on
The author of over a dozen books, Sandra is an explorer of history, myth, and magic. Her writing has been featured in SageWoman, The Magical Times, The Portal, and Circle magazines, Utne Reader and Magical Buffet websites, and various Llewellyn almanacs. Although she is a member of the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids, she travels a solitary Goddess-centered path through the Druidic woods. She has lived in New York City, Europe, England, and now Maine where she lives in an 1850s farmhouse surrounded by meadows and woods.  


Additional information