Giving up doesn’t always mean you’re weak. Sometimes it means you are strong and smart enough to let go and move on.
If I were writing a book about pohole fern, I would call it Pohole: A Fern of Many Names. It is called ostrich fern on the mainland, pohole fern on Maui, hōʻiʻo on Oʻahu, pako in the Philippines, warabi in Japan, and kosade in Korea. A foraged fern shoot, pohole are bright green, unfurled fern heads that are harvested when they’re young and anywhere from 6 to 9 inches in height. The distinctive flavor can be described as nutty and mildly sweet, and the texture is akin to okra on the inside and young asparagus on the outside. Before using, snap off the ends of the fern shoot, the same way you would for asparagus. Paired with a sweet umami sauce and bright cherry tomatoes, this salad is a crowd-pleaser.
- 1 pound pohole fern
- 1 pound cherry tomatoes, quartered
- ½ small Maui onion, thinly sliced lengthwise
- 5 green onions, green parts only, chopped
- 1 tablespoon fish sauce
- ¼ cup soy sauce (shoyu)
- 3tablespoons rice vinegar
- tablespoons sesame oil
- ¼ cup sugar
Prepare an ice-water bath by filling a large bowl with a handful of ice cubes and water, and set it aside. Wash and remove any little “hairs” from the pohole fern shoots. Cut the shoots into 1½-inch segments and blanch for 1 minute in a pot of boiling water. Drain the shoots into a colander and immediately transfer them to the ice-water bath. Once cooled, drain the water from the ferns and place them in a bowl with the tomatoes, Maui onions, and green onions.
In a small bowl, whisk together the fish sauce, soy sauce, vinegar, oil, and sugar until the sugar has dissolved. Pour the mixture over the vegetables and gently toss with your hands. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for several hours before serving.
Fresh pohole will keep in the refrigerator for about a week. If you aren’t in Hawai‘i, I’d recommend checking with a specialty foods purveyor to help you source the fern.