“What is that?” I asked my then boyfriend (now my husband =) as I saw him gathering some fern along the river banks. “Pako” he said. “What will you do with that?, was my next question. He told me we are going to eat them together with the fish that we caught. Eat them? That’s just for decoration! Or so I thought. I watched them ate and thought to myself, okay they’ve been eating pako ever since and they’re still alive so maybe it is really edible. =) That was the first time I ever tasted that fiddlehead fern or pako/vegetable fern (scientfific name: Athyrium Esculentum) as we call it here in the Philippines. And mind you it tasted really good!
Pako is mostly found in some countries in Asia like Philippines, India, Indonesia, China, Japan and also in Hawaii and in North America. They are found and typically grow near banks of running water like rivers, streams and in swampy areas. They grow in abundance during the rainy season. And that is one reason why I can smile during the rainy days. We do have some pako plants in our backyard. We got it from my husband’s hometown in Kalinga. They grow fast as long as you water them especially if you planted them during the dry season. Since we are living in the city we only gather as much stalks during the rainy days and colder months.
So maybe you are thinking, how to eat pako? I use them almost in everything and literally everything. I put them in my tinola, in my sinigang, in adobong squid and in chopsuey. I use them when I don’t have any vegetable in the fridge. I especially love using pako with kiniing (smoked meat). Just saute garlic, onion, smoked meat and put pako when the meat is already tender. Hmmm… so good.
But most people love to use pako as a side dish. It is best for Ensalada or salad. Others eat pako salad raw style or just blanch it but since I have quite a sensitive tummy I prefer cooking it. Here is a simple salad recipe you can try.
1. Cooked pako for five minutes.
2. Take it out of the pot and immediately pour out cold water onto it. Ice cold water is best to maintain the beautiful green color of the pako stalks and its crispness.
3. In a bowl mix together sliced onion, vinegar, brown sugar, salt and pepper to taste.
4. Add a drop of olive oil if you have. (I know olive oil is expensive especially in this side of the world. I am just glad my mother left her bottle of olive oil in the house =)
So if you don’t have olive oil, that’s just fine.
5. Put the pako and mix well. There you go! Enjoy your pako salad.
· I did not put any measurement since we have different preference when it comes to the taste of some dish. Adjust ingredients according to your taste.
I researched some of the benefits of this edible fern and here's what I have found.
1. Fiber - Accordingly Pako leaves is rich in fiber which plays an important role in digestion. Fiber also helps in blood sugar control, weight loss and management, heart problem, stroke, skin health, hemorrhoids, irritable bowel syndrome, gallstones and kidney stones.
2. Calcium – it is a mineral that is necessary to build and maintain strong bones and healthy communication between the brain and various parts of the body.
3. Iron – it is an important mineral with an essential role in the body. Lack of it, your body cannot make enough healthy oxygen-carrying red blood cells. A lack of these cells is called iron deficiency anemia.
4. Phosphorus – it is a mineral that works with calcium to help build bones.
5. Vitamin B or Thiamine. This vitamin plays an important role in our bodies together with the other B vitamins. They help convert our food into fuel that allows us to stay energized throughout the day.