{Tree}household: Rearranging the Ferniture

Treehousehold series

Hiya! Heather here, turning things outside in for the second installment of {Tree}Household: Rearranging the Ferniture.

The fern frond is a fabulously flexible art form: funky in the living room, funny in the bedroom, and unexpectedly flavorful in the kitchen. Unfurling like an ancient scroll, the signature fern curve takes shape in every corner of the creative home as an evergreen source of year-long hue, a delicate architectural detail, and subtle groundcover turned striking accent. Here we find a few ways of bringing friendly ferns far beyond the banks of their native streams and woodland corners into the forefront of our everydays.

Ferns in the Living Room

Upholstered Fern Chair by Williams Sonoma (via MotherBlogger) | Fern Silhouettes by Two’s Company (via Country Living) | Stenciled Fern Trunk by Angelique

Ferns are one of the things I find perfect in nature; in design, they do more than just bring the outside in—they lend symmetry, grace, and shapeliness to everything they adorn, from pressed wall decor to freshly picked fabric. Symbolically, ferns are associated with, “Magic, fascination, confidence, shelter, discretion, reverie and a secret bond of love.” Whether a cinnamon fern with tiny curling tendrils, a delicate whisk fern, or one of the other 12,000 species, they all share the same arcing stems and proportional leaves that make them ripe for artistic picking.

Ferns in the Bedroom

Fern Boutonniere by JPM Design | Fern Headband by Ancient Grove | Fern Pillow by T Double L | Fern Chandelier by Dolce

Ferns are not only good to look at, but as a natural bonus are good to eat! Here are a few ideas for bringing ferns into the kitchen, both as decorative accents and edible mainstays.

Ferns in the Kitchen

Fern Tablescape by HeyLook | Fern Cookies by Queen of Hearts Tarts | Fern Glasses by Greener Grass Design

Fiddlehead ferns, the densely wound head of the ostrich fern, are a celebrated treat in the Northeast US, often compared to a woodier asparagus. Served boiled, pickled, dried or sauteed as a delectable delicacy in Southeast Asia and the Pacific, the heads of the kapo and high climbing ferns make an exotic side or primetime veggie dish. The tops of bracken ferns are prepared as a ritual vegetable for the ceremonies involved in Korean harvest festivals and New Years celebrations. Salad is given a whole new layer of special when made with swamp fern or “water lettuce”, a slick and nutritious aquatic weed. Tree ferns, so tall that they make up part of the jungle canopy and so varied that there are 600+ species, are roasted, seasoned, and feasted upon in tropical regions. Distilled from the woody tendrils of a foraged shrub, Sweet Fern tea (recipe here and available here) is an herbal brew aiding in digestion and a peaceful pungence.

Cooked Fiddleheads by Libraryman | Ferns for Sale by Summertomato

TreeHouseHold is delighted to feature our first recipe tutorial: the Fernover! Sister to the traditional apple turnover, brother to the savory pie, and distant cousin to latte art, the vegan “fernover” is an edible celebration of the unfurling of the autumn season.

The recipe combines sweet and savory, food and art, and three of the fall’s greatest natural talents (squash, apples, and beets) into one pretty pastry. This is slow food in the most leisurely sense of the phrase, and is best made on an unhurried afternoon when dinner is “whenever it’s ready”.

Since fiddlehead fern season lasts a snappy 3-4 weeks in late spring, these bundles of tastebud joy do not use actual ferns (although when available these pastries would be lovely paired with a side dish of boiled or roasted fiddleheads for a fully fern-centric meal!), but they incorporate ferns in the artistic presentation. These fernovers are also perfect for preparing, freezing, and reheating at a moment’s notice for a quick meal or snack that tastes like it was a lifetime in the making.

Butternut Squash and Apple Fernovers

olive oil
3 medium apples, diced
2 medium butternut squash, diced
1 cob of corn, taken off the cob
1 large onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, pressed
1 sprig ginger, shaved and sliced
fresh thyme
fresh rosemary
sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cup apple cider
a few glugs of red cooking wine or sherry
phyllo dough
vegan butter, melted, and a kitchen paintbrush

The Art Part:
the juice of 1 or 2 beets, boiled in a little water
1 tsp turmeric powder
fern stencil or stamp

1. In a large skillet, combine and saute apples, squash, corn, onion, garlic, ginger, thyme, rosemary, salt and pepper. Mix in cinnamon, apple cider, and cooking wine to create a light sauce for the vegetable blend. Cook for a few minutes until squash is tender and onions are golden brown and translucent. Remove mixture from heat.

2. Spread one layer of thawed phyllo dough (for instructions on working with the fickle phyllo, see here) on a damp paper towel and brush with butter. Fold in half vertically and brush again. Fold in half vertically again and brush once more. Place 1-2 tablespoons of the squash mixture on the phyllo and fold to form a triangle. Fold again until turnover shape is achieved, using the same method as you would properly fold a flag (see here for help). Brush shaped turnover with butter once more. Repeat this step until all the mixture is gone, or until you tire of this culinary origami.

3. Combine 1 teaspoon turmeric powder with a few spoonfuls of the beet juice that leaks out after you boil them. This will make a bright red-orange paste. Dip your stamp in it or paint the paste onto your stamp or stencil, and apply to a small section of another piece of phyllo. Tear the stamped area of dough from the rest of the sheet and lay it gently onto the top of the pastry.

4. Bake in a preheated oven for 20-30 minutes at 375.

5. Feast! Great served warm with honey mustard (and for the non-vegans, fresh herbed goat cheese).

Thanks for reading, and stay outside and tuned up for the next installment of TreeHouseHold, Acornucopia!

Thanks to Working with Ferns: Issues and Applications by Ashwani Kumar for all the delicious information!

All recipe photographs by me.

About the contributor:

Heather Buzzard is a freshly hatched graduate of Emory University, where she studied creative writing, sociology, religion and environmental science. Her time is spent frolicking as a musician in two Atlanta bands, dressing up for silly photoshoots, inventing recipes, and drooling happily over her Indie Fixx work.


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