Comptonia peregrina – Sweet Fern

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Sweet Fern (Comptonia peregrina) is a native shrub related to the bayberry plant.
Sweet fern is not a true fern, as it produces seeds and flowers, unlike ferns which reproduce using spores.
Sweet fern leaves have a nice aroma, but are tough, so are best used to flavor liquids. The leaves should then be removed and discarded, similarly to how you would use bay leaf.
The leaves can also be used to make a tea. The leaves should only be steeped for 1-2 minutes. If steeped longer, the tea will become bitter.
Sweet fern seeds grow in a burr-shaped orb and are ready to harvest when blueberries are ripe. They can be dried and then ground to add seasoning to a dish. Sweet fern seeds can be used in shortbread cookies, to flavor liquor, or infused into a cream.

Written by Amy Demers, founder of the Connecticut Foraging Club. To learn more about foraging in Connecticut, check out our upcoming classes.

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