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Hō‘i‘o: Delicious & Nutritious Fern Shoots

Posted March 22, 2017, 02:00 PM HST Updated March 31, 2017, 09:09 AM HST


    Known as hō‘i‘o in Hawaiian or warabi to the Japanese, pako to the Filipino, kosade to the Koreans, ostrich fern or fiddlehead fern on the mainland, it is delicious and nutritious.

    Hō‘i‘o grows in the wet, higher-altitude rain forests of our islands, particularly on the Big Island and Maui.

    The fern is very high in iron and fiber, loaded with vitamins A and C and a very good source of omega 3 and omega 6 antioxidants. They retain a dark deep green color even after being cooked and have been compared to tasting similar to okra, green beans or even asparagus.

    They retain a dark deep green color even after being cooked and have been compared to okra, green beans or even asparagus.

    Pteridium aquilinum is the type that most commonly grows here in Hawai‘i.

    It is worth noting that certain varieties of the plant contain the carcinogenic compound Ptaquiloside so it needs to be cooked thoroughly before it is consumed.

    Usually cut into bite-sized pieces and blanched, warabi is often seen at parties both big and small in the buffet line served as a salad mixed with kamaboko (Japanese fishcake), dried codfish or dried opae (shrimp), konbu (seaweed), onions, tomato and soy sauce or sesame-based sauces.

    Some chefs as well as many home cooks have ventured off the beaten path and pushed this ingredient to its limit by creating some delicious dishes that leave you wanting to lick your plate.


    The ferns can be used to stir-fry with your favorite protein or used to create an amazingly delicious soup.

    Hō‘i‘o holds up great in vinegar-based pickling or even Korean kimchee-style pickling techniques.

    It is a great substitute for asparagus wrapped in bacon and grilled on the hibachi at your next barbecue.

    Just remember that it is thinner, so you will need to wrap three or four stalks in bacon compared to the individual stalk of asparagus.

    While there may be many different varieties of this fern, it is worth noting that the local culinary world here will argue that the hō‘i‘o is more tender and succulent than other varieties, attributing the difference to our tropical climate and year-round rainfall.

    You’ll probably be able to find some of these at your local grocery store or even at some farmers markets throughout the island. But, going out and gathering it is still the preferred way.

    The beginner might have a problem finding someone to take them to the secret spots, as most locals guard the locations of their favorite hō‘i‘o patch just as heavily as they guard the locations of their secret fishing holes.

    Stir fried hō‘i‘o fern shoots with pork and other vegetables. Photo credit: Darde Gamayo.

    Hō‘i‘o salad. Photo: Kuana Torres Kahele

    Secret patch of hō‘i‘o. Darde Gamayo photo.

    Hō‘i‘o shoots and ferns. Darde Gamayo photo.


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    Joseph Bugado that's called HAPUMarch 22, 2017 04:13pm
    Remy Deshayes To bad it tastes like poo😝March 22, 2017 05:08pm
    John Calicdan also called pako ( think that is how it's spelled) good eating stuffMarch 22, 2017 07:45pm
    Kellen Kelson ClownsMarch 22, 2017 07:48pm
    Darling Kamakahi FERN 👀ONO DeliciousCLEAN CUT UP. .. Cook.. boil not to long .. 👀UNDER WATER.. LET STAND.. CUT UP TOMATOS N SWEET ONION ..O,PAI. OR FISHCAKES.. LITTLE PATIS.. OR VINGAR. OR WHATEVER U HAVE ..YUMMY..👀March 22, 2017 08:12pm
    John Rager Filopinos say Pako... My girlfren puts in salad...an soup or stew... OnoMarch 22, 2017 08:14pm
    Rd Fujimura ^^^oh yeah that's how it's done!!March 22, 2017 10:04pm
    Tanisha Ryann Ooohhhh Warabi Salad!March 22, 2017 10:42pm
    Jeremy N Ululani WARABI...#Fave with Tomato, Round Onion & Kamaboko. 🤙🏽March 22, 2017 11:01pm
    Sharie Potter Ha! And I thought this was just a New England thing. We're not quite there yet, soon... I hope...March 22, 2017 11:15pm
    Dawn Thatcher-White Shaun Thatcher !! Go get some I have one packet left here from my picking last year.... fiddle fernMarch 23, 2017 07:09am
    Shaun Thatcher Grows everywhere around my house... 😉👍🏼March 23, 2017 07:27am
    Edward J. Rapoza Todd Shiraki, do we have this at our ranch?March 23, 2017 12:15pm

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