The Māori first collected and named the wild New Zealand ferns known as pikopiko. In addition to providing sustenance, the plant also serves as a Māori symbol of unity. The pikorua, which depicts two intertwined pikopiko, represents the bond between two entities and appears in art and jewelry.
Today, foragers find pikopiko shoots, which taste a bit like green beans or asparagus, growing in damp, shady areas. The pale, green fronds, which are often dotted with brown speckles, are most tender when their heads are tightly coiled. Once the leaves unfurl, however, the plant is inedible.
After correctly identifying the young fern, foragers wash, peel, and cook it (steaming, boiling, or stir-frying are the most common methods). The shoots can be used raw, or blended with oil and nuts to form a spread.
Need to Know
Wild plant collectors should use caution when seeking out pikopiko. The risks associated with eating incorrectly identified ferns from New Zealand's bush are not worth the reward of any tasty, wild snack.