06 Sep2008


Just got back from the market minutes ago and couldn’t help but do an immediate post on these stunningly fresh pako or fiddlehead ferns. It’s the middle of the rainy season in Luzon, and the best time to harvest young fern tips, so get them at their finest. I have done a couple of posts on pako before, here and here, but I never tire of this beautiful, delicious, slightly nutty and reminiscent of asparagus native green. And these pako are so fresh they must have been picked within the last 12 hours and that is amazing in a Manila market as they have probably come from several hours outside of Manila, the closest areas being in Laguna or Quezon or perhaps further afield in the Bicol region. They are a vibrant green, tips nicely curled and the stems turgid and defiant…


These will be blanched for a few seconds to kill off any cooties and neutralize the sometimes mild poisonous compounds in ferns, then into an ice bath to stop the cooking, retain the vibrant color and keep them crisp. Just before serving lunch, they will be married with chopped tomatoes and bathed in a simple vinaigrette and a final shower of salt and ground pepper. Sublime. And the best time to have it is now. So if you are hitting the markets today or tomorrow, keep your eyes peeled for some wonderful pako. And have a pako salad, or stew in some coconut milk, a preparation I have not tried but have been repeatedly advised is brilliant… And yes, this is diet food in Marketman’s opinion… :)


Here’s a photo of the salad I made from the fresh pako…




  1. Jing says:

    We have it with chicken curry cooked with gata. Delicious! Might be there are still chicken pieces left over but all the pako will be gone :)

    Sep 6, 2008 | 11:06 am


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  3. natie says:

    wow! really fresh pako! you sure are enjoying your diet, MM. that’s the way to do it…

    Sep 6, 2008 | 11:39 am

  4. wil-b cariaga says:

    mmm. ..i love pako, this is also good with lots of kalamansi and bagoong. . . it’s been a while since i left a comment hehe. . . it’s my first day off after two months of working straight. . . haaaay at last. . .

    Sep 6, 2008 | 12:04 pm

  5. moni says:

    What a coincidence Marketman. I bought a bunch of pako in Baybay market today and we’re having it as our vegie for lunch. I just saute pako in garlic, oyster sauce and crushed chili. Try it, it’s delicious. So easy and quick to do. It’s just another take on pako.

    Have you fixed the dates of the lechon EB in Cebu?

    Sep 6, 2008 | 12:20 pm

  6. Marketman says:

    moni, close to finalizing dates, will probably post them by Monday or Tuesday next week… and thanks for that version of pako… will, 2 months straight?! yikes! natie, I am trying… Jing, thanks for that variation as well!

    Sep 6, 2008 | 1:15 pm

  7. sagada says:

    i do envy you…..
    fresh pako……

    never had a taste since we were kids in SAGADA. we picked them on the seasonal riverbeds near the caves by the hanging coffins in SAGADA.

    i do miss them.
    am here in the border of tecas with mexico and i think the mexicans don’t have these as i do not see it in their local markets.

    Sep 6, 2008 | 1:37 pm

  8. bernadette says:

    i would only like to know how much is pako usually sold there in Manila, MM? Here, it can be sold for P5-6 a bundle. My husband and I are just curious. Thanks!

    Sep 6, 2008 | 4:54 pm

  9. june's marbel says:

    wer so lucky here in south cotabato where we can find abundant supply of this wonderful fern though we got the tinier variety.we prepare it with calamansi at bagoong.fried eggplant,deep fried tilapia from lake sebu.ummmmmmmm yumyum.i am too on the diet.observing after six diet.so i consume lots of these earlier.hahahaha.

    Sep 6, 2008 | 5:23 pm

  10. Marketman says:

    Bernadette, a small bundle of roughly 3 inches diameter at the point it is tied is PHP 25 in Manila. It is abundant in the provinces, but harvesting and transporting it is where the cost comes in… And it spoils fairly quickly, so it isn’t easy to carry unless it will be sold within hours…

    Sep 6, 2008 | 5:35 pm

  11. nina says:

    I love pako and I love them with grilled fish and buro!

    Sep 6, 2008 | 5:56 pm

  12. zena says:

    That pako looks sooo fresh and appetizing. Depending on our food, we either have it as a salad or sauteed with garlic. Can’t help but notice that the curled tendrils in the top picture look like curled up millipedes, hehe.

    Sep 6, 2008 | 6:15 pm

  13. rose says:

    hi,, i just had pako yesterday, my friend had this organic pako which she is bragging that is super yummy….she added crushed chicharon, salted eggs, and kamatis… patis for flavor….yummy!!! this is my first time ti try this version of pako….tom sunday, at the lung center weekend market they sell pako, 10 pesos per bundle… but scout around first…sometimes you get better pako from vendors at the far end of the market.

    Sep 6, 2008 | 7:19 pm

  14. Homebuddy says:

    Pako Salad is wonderful with chopped hard cooked egg or itlog maalat. Its cheap here in Leyte, 3 bundles for P5.00 and yes, they’re abundant in the market these days. We also put in pako tips with Mongo Soup.

    Sep 6, 2008 | 8:03 pm

  15. Apicio says:

    The fiddleheads gathered in public forests and seasonal markets here around the month of May are deep green tightly wound scrolls the size of beer bottle caps covered with short fine blondish-brown hair as protection from frost. As you mentioned, it contains a trace of a toxic substance than disappears with even just a bit of cooking. Wiki says this substance is used in the perfume industry and is now more efficiently extracted from star-anise which of course reminded me of the anise-flavored drink Absinthe that was suspected of worsening Vincent van Gogh’s cut-your-ear-off madness. I looked that up too and found out that it is a different substance altogether.

    Anyway, caring Korean cooks throw blanched fiddleheads on their chapchae here. Delicious.

    Sep 6, 2008 | 8:21 pm

  16. bernadette says:

    Thank you, MM! I’m really surprised that as Homebuddy had shared that 3 bundles of pako can be had for only P5! Wow!

    Sep 6, 2008 | 8:35 pm

  17. Paula says:

    Totally unrelated to this post, but since I couldn’t find any recipes for veal in your site (aside from the veal chops last jul08-we polished off 2 kilos of them already, nicely grilled), I’m begging for your help regarding an additional 2 kilos of veal osso bucco that I still have and have no idea on how to cook. I don’t want to waste them by simply using them as the bones for a demi-glace sauce… =T Any suggestions/recipes that you might have? =D

    Sep 6, 2008 | 8:55 pm

  18. Marketman says:

    Paula, I have a recipe for “Waygu Osso Buco a la Milanese” in the archives, just replace the wagyu with veal…

    Sep 6, 2008 | 9:32 pm

  19. momsy says:

    hi we usually cook ginataang suso with pako….yummy!

    Sep 6, 2008 | 10:11 pm

  20. sister says:

    Apicio, Real absinthe is available legally again.

    Sep 6, 2008 | 10:17 pm

  21. kurzhaar says:

    Marketman, I’ve had fiddleheads here and in Asia, but they seem like they were different species. Does anyone know whether all fern fiddleheads are edible? (I have various fern species growing in my yard.) Never had the pluck to pick my own in the spring…I recall a story in the papers some years ago about food poisoning in the SFO area from eating fiddleheads (I think this happened in the Hmong community but could be wrong).

    On absinthe…mmm (but then I like pastis). Have had the legal stuff in the US and other brands in Europe. You can even get absinthe-flavoured candies nowadays.

    Sep 7, 2008 | 12:42 am

  22. Apicio says:

    Yes Sister and Kurzhaar, I read about it but am not curious enough to seek it out soon as I found Pernod’s pastis (actually Absinthe sans the culprit wormwood extract), a tad exotic to drink, so used it only for cooking. What I really liked around those parts was horchata which is served similarly but is essentially diluted almond milk though I believe in Spain they extract it from a different type of nut altogether.

    Sep 7, 2008 | 1:09 am

  23. Marketman says:

    Kurzhaar, defnitely NOT ALL fiddlehead ferns are edible. The varieties in the states seem to come from a much larger species of fern, and the coils are tighter and more circular, like the end of a violin, hence the term fiddlehead… In Asia, there are apparently several varieties of ferns that are edible, with Indonesia seeming to have a huge variety, and the local name “Pako” is similiar to the Indonesian or Malayan term “Paku” which refers to young leaves of the fern… I wouldn’t go around picking my own fern tendrils, tips, ends, fiddleheads unless I knew which ones were edible… Apicio, in Turkey, we had their equivalent of pastis, this clear liquid that when poured into water turned the drink cloudy… it was wicked!

    Sep 7, 2008 | 7:07 am

  24. chichay says:

    I love pako salad. I always have it esp. if there is no vegetable on the table. For only P15 you can have a good nutritious local salad that can be shared by the family.

    Sep 7, 2008 | 9:23 am

  25. betty q. says:

    3 bundles for 5Pesos , Homebuddy?…If I were there, I would buy a whole kaboodle, quickly blanch it, then shock them in ice bath , drain on paper towels and freeze single layer on cookie sheet….pack in ziplock or vacuum pack them. …

    Sep 7, 2008 | 10:29 am

  26. meekerz says:

    Is it just me, or do they look like worms? ;p

    Sep 7, 2008 | 10:52 am

  27. Gerry says:

    Poisonous? I’ve been eating these things raw but never had any reaction. Thanks for the heads up. Better safe than sorry.

    Sep 7, 2008 | 12:38 pm

  28. moni says:

    Homebuddy, where in Leyte can you get 3 bundles of pako for P5. In Baybay and Ormoc, a bunch costs P5-P6. Interesting.

    Sep 7, 2008 | 3:58 pm

  29. moni says:

    Homebuddy, where in Leyte can you get 3 bundles of pako for P5? In Baybay and Ormoc, a bunch costs P5-P6. Interesting.

    Sep 7, 2008 | 3:58 pm

  30. kurzhaar says:

    At least the species known as cinnamon fern and ostrich fern are eaten here in the US. After the poisoning incidents some years ago there were reminders in the newspapers to make sure fiddleheads are cooked thoroughly to destroy the toxins in them. So…I understand blanching or brief steaming is insufficient for safety reasons. In any case I have only had fiddleheads thoroughly steamed (I’m guessing 15 minutes??).

    Sep 8, 2008 | 5:07 am

  31. Marketman says:

    kurzhaar, the variety we eat here is much finer and literally lighter than the North American fiddleheads. We steam them here or plunge them into boiling water for literally seconds… maybe a minute at most… Others stew it in coconut milk for a few minutes. I like them best when they are still crisp and vibrant…

    Sep 8, 2008 | 6:58 am

  32. Topster says:

    Hi MM, we enjoy pako served as an accompaniment to grilled or fried fish! It’s perfect paired with buro and some local round eggplant! Also, we sometimes use it as an alternative to ampalaya leaves for our guinisang sardinas dish. Made me a bit nostalgic about my childhood summers in Pampanga! =)

    Sep 8, 2008 | 9:19 am

  33. Hanninah says:

    Ang saraaaaaaaaaaaaaaaap ! I bought 30 bundles of pako 2 weeks ago Sunday and cooked in in fresh coconut cream with some leftover crab legs. Hay naku, my mom loved it.

    Thanks for the tip on how to cook it for salad. Somehow when I try it, it comes out overcooked! I gonna give it a try this week ;)

    Also read somewhere that there’s a lady in Pasay who grows Pako in her garden. Wonder how she does that. I’ve been trying to grow some, but they just don’t come out the same.

    Sep 8, 2008 | 10:41 am

  34. Feyoh says:

    Wow, mouthwatering greens!
    We have pako right at our doorstep, as my family lives in a tropical paradise.
    Thank you for the tip of giving the pako an ice bath. I had always wondered how I could preserve the greenness after blanching them for salad. Will make one tomorrow for breakfast to go with my tinapa.

    Sep 9, 2008 | 7:49 pm

  35. GenerSumilang says:

    Many people dont know that the best way to eat a fern”pako” is thru eating it “raw”. all the natural aromatic taste will just spread in your mouth. the way of doing it is just clean the stems by slightly hot water then wash, remove or cut the hard part of the stems, cut them into acceptable sizes, 1 piece of tomato and spoonfull of bagoong will enhance the taste, mixed it accordingly then eat! with rice of course and some other dishes..cooking it will reduce its nutrients and taste. better eat it raw. experience the natural taste,,,dont worry that its not pleasant taste as im a very expert with ferns in the north of the country and certainly i know all the kinds of it, edible ferns are the best food to enhance healthy nutrients in your body……

    Feb 11, 2009 | 5:00 pm

  36. Marketman says:

    Gener, some ferns have a mild poisonous compound, and elsewhere in the world, blanching is often recommended. For fiddlehead ferns (there are many varieties across the globe, our closest relations being the ones in Indonesia, probably), the substance to watch out for is shikimic acid, which is a mild poison. Some fairly reliable sources (Mansfield Encyclopedia) write that shikimic acid can be a cause of stomach cancer, and site varieties of ferns specifically from East Asia, including Pterdium aquilinum. Although they list the more common edible ferns in the Philippines as Athyrium esculentum. And if you go to this site, you will see they list that latter Filipino variety under poisonous plants. I wonder if the poison, albeit a different one, is similar to calcium oxalate found in uncooked gabi or taro leaves… which if eaten uncooked, can cause severe throat constriction in some people. So I would be concerned about suggesting that the ferns be eaten raw without further study… I do love them cooked, however.

    Feb 11, 2009 | 5:27 pm

  37. GenerSumilang says:

    There are only 4 species of fern known to be edible found in the wild,and honestly we never think of any content of poison in it, reason perhaps is that we never seen anyone even the old folks complaining about fern eating. So we normally eat ferns as normal as those typical veges found in the garden.Will this small quantity of venom found on ferns will affect ones health? is there any sign symptoms? as far as i know ferns are healthy food and belongs to exotic type i believed, so not many are eating it and i reccommend all to try eating it either raw or cooked, it depends on your tastes anyway and the nutrients your body requires, or simply disregard the nutrients, just experience eating it..Thanks MARKETMAN for revealing the truth about ferns. i guess i needed some more lessons!!.

    Feb 12, 2009 | 4:58 pm

  38. el_jefe says:

    try ginataang pako with ulang and ”suso” snails!!! yum!

    Oct 30, 2009 | 12:26 pm


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