Photo/Illustration: Emily DeBolt
USDA Hardiness Zones: 2 to 8
Size: 2 to 6 feet tall and 3 feet wide
Shade tolerance: Prefers at least two hours of dappled sunlight
Soil conditions: Rich, consistently moist soil
Also called fiddlehead fern, ostrich fern is native to the soggy woodlands of Canada and the eastern United States. All ferns produce fiddleheads before their leaves unfurl, but other species are too dry and papery to be palatable. I know—I’ve tried them. In early spring, harvest the tightly curled fiddleheads along with a 3-inch length of stalk, keeping in mind that taking more than a third of the fern’s fiddleheads will weaken the plant. You can eat fiddleheads raw, but they taste best sautéed in butter.