Ostrich Fern Fiddlehead (Matteuccia struthiopteris L. Todaro) Cultivation: Controlled Environment Requirements and Growth Cycle Compression
Ostrich fern (Matteuccia struthiopteris L. Todaro) fiddleheads hold considerable potential as a nutritious, traditional, local food source in Canada. However, fiddleheads are only available for a few weeks each spring. Development of the industry can only be accomplished with indoor production that recreates and optimizes the outdoor seasonal cycles. This study investigated environment conditions for indoor production and the potential for compressing the growth cycle to achieve quicker harvests. Measurements of canopy net carbon exchange rate showed that carbon exchange in adult fronds was maximized at 400-600 µmol m-2s-1, with aerial conditions of 1300-1600 ppm CO2 and 18-23oC. Experimental modification of the growth cycle revealed that dormancy can be completed in 9-12 weeks, while a full 18 weeks of recharge after emergence is critical. These findings suggested that commercial production is feasible, and the growth cycle may be reduced to 214-238 days.