One of the best things about living on Maui is the year-round growing season – a fact brought home to me the other day when James made a pohole fern salad.
In the New England of my childhood, we could only get tender, slightly chewy fiddlehead ferns in the springtime–and because these fern shoot–baby ferns–were all hand-harvested in the cold mud of spring, they were precious. You had to “know someone” (my dad, for example) to get them. Of course, my childhood palate was not yet convinced that the asparagus-okra taste was delicious, so I often gave my bounty back to my parents. My father, who grew up in the far northern woods of Maine (Fort Kent, for those who know the region), where fiddlehead picking was a family affair, ate each one carefully, biting the little curled heads off, then crunching the stems. We steamed our ferns just until they were crisp, sprinkled some salt, and ate them as soon as we could. Baby ferns do not keep fresh for long.
Maui’s version of fiddleheads are the aforementioned pohole fern (in other areas of Hawaii they’re called the ho’i’o), and they have definitely grown on me. Luckily for all of us, you don’t have to “know someone” to get them.
You’ll find pohole ferns at restaurants where the focus is fresh, seasonal, local food, and often at the poke counter at the supermarket. Or, sometimes, at Mana Foods, which is where we snagged this bag.
James took on the task of preparing a fern salad, which we had with poke from foodland. Sesame oil, olive oil, chili oil, red peppers, garlic, lots of red and Maui onions and bright red tomatoes tumbled into the bowl with the ferns. Green, refreshing. Crunch.