Bracken

Pteridium aquilinum esculentum

Edible Uses

Edible Parts: Leaves; Root.

Edible Uses: Sweetener.

Root - rich in a white starch that can be eaten raw or cooked. It can also be dried and ground into a flour. The root is very fibrous. When dried, it will store for years. The root contains 60% starch. The dry weight content of starch is between 43 and 72%. This starch can be extracted from the roots and is used in making dumplings which are eaten with soya flour and sugar as a delicacy. Young shoots - raw or cooked. They can be used like asparagus or like spinach. Somewhat flavourless, though they are considered to be a delicacy in Japan. The fronds should be used when less than 20cm long, longer ones have a terrible taste. The shoots are somewhat bitter so they are often blanched for a few minutes in boiling water, then left to soak in cold water for two hours before being cooked. Although this might well improve the flavour, it will greatly reduce the nutritional value. The shoots should be steeped in lye first. Occasional use should cause no problems, but regular consumption is not advisable because the shoots might be carcinogenic. The plant yields an edible saccharine substance. (from the cooked root??).

Medicinal Uses

Anthelmintic; Antiemetic; Antirheumatic; Diuretic; Febrifuge; Poultice.

The young shoots are diuretic, refrigerant and vermifuge. They have been eaten as a treatment for cancer. The leaves have been used in a steam bath as a treatment for arthritis. A decoction of the plant as been used in the treatment of tuberculosis. A poultice of the pounded fronds and leaves has been used to treat sores of any type and also to bind broken bones in place. The root is antiemetic, antiseptic, appetizer and tonic. A tincture of the root in wine is used in the treatment of rheumatism. A tea made from the roots is used in the treatment of stomach cramps, chest pains, internal bleeding, diarrhoea, colds and also to expel worms. The poulticed root is applied to sores, burns and caked breasts. Roots have been utilized both as a treatment for bronchitis and parasitic worm infections.

 

Other Uses

Adhesive; Basketry; Biomass; Compost; Dye; Hair; Lining; Packing; Repellent; Soap; Soap making; Stuffing; Tinder.

A glue can be made from the rootstock. A brown dye is obtained from the fronds. It is green according to another report. The fibrous remnants from edible roots make a good tinder. The rhizome lathers readily in water and can be used as a soap. A decoction of the root has been used as a hair wash. The roots have been rubbed into the scalp in order to promote hair growth. The roots have been pounded to remove the bark, then split into flat bands and used as the black strands of cheap baskets. The ashes of the plant are rich in potassium and could be used as a fertilizer. They are also used in the manufacture of glass (when mixed with sand) and in making soap (when mixed with vegetable oil).

The roots contain up to 20% potash in early summer, but this reduces to about 5% in the autumn. The whole plant is a very valuable addition to the compost heap, it is rich in potash and makes an excellent compost for tree seeds. Cut twice a year if you want the plants to continue growing, three cuts annually will weaken and eventually kill off the plants. The dried ferns produce a very durable thatch. The leaves are used as a packing material for fruit, keeping it fresh and cool without imparting any colour or flavour. They are also used as a lining for baskets, fruit drying racks etc and as a bedding. The leaves repel insects and can help to prevent rot in the fruits etc. Dried bracken fronds are very useful in the garden as a mulch for somewhat tender plants. This will keep the soil warmer, protect from wind damage and also keep off some of the rain. They were commonly used as a source of fuel and as a roofing material in the middle ages. Bracken ferns were also widely used at one time in the production of potash and bleach, and continue to be utilized in some locales as a food source and as bedding for cattle. The rhizomes of the plants are especially useful. Their extracts can be used to dye wool and tan leather.