One of the greatest pleasures of coming back to Bhutan during the monsoon months is the availability of nakay or wild ferns. In fact this year when I flew home in August, my family, well aware of my fondness for nakay, stopped on the way home from the airport to purchase nakay from some of the roadside stalls between Paro and Thimphu.
Nakay is one of the most widely known and collected edible wild plants in Bhutan. According to a joint Japanese- Bhutanese survey of edible wild plants, Bhutanese know about and collect 190 species of wild plants, eating not only the fruits, nuts and tubers but in some cases also the flowers, stem, shoots and leaves. Nakay was found to be the best known of these wild plants and the term " Nakay" in fact is used to refer to three different species of fern. Its amazing how rich Bhutanese forests continue to be and that despite the introduction of all sort of foreign and processed foods that Bhutanese continue to collect and enjoy these wild plants, many of which are said to have particular medicinal properties. For example according to the survey, nakay is believed to stimulate the brain.Saddly my family and I are not collectors and we eat only the wild plants that get sold in the local market.
Nakay comes covered in a brown fur, my mother always takes great pains to wash each stack in vinegar and water so that this fur comes off completely. Its easy enough to do by hand, just gently brushing off the fur.
She then cuts up the stalks to remove any parts that aren't tender enough . Below you see a batch of tender-est parts of each stalk.
Most often we make nakay datshi with chilli and cheese. Each family makes datshi, a standard way to cook vegetables a little differently, we tend to boil the vegetables with a little chopped onions, garlic, chilli and salt, adding butter when the water bubbles and cheese when the vegetable is almost cooked. Delicious!
*Here is a reference if you are interested in learning more about the survey of edible wild plants in Bhutan.
Ken-ichi Matsushima, Mineon Minami and Kazuhiro Nemoto ( 2012) " Use and Conservation of Edible Plants in Bhutan" from the Journal of the Faculty of Agriculture, Shinshu University Vol. 48, no.1