PETALING JAYA: Fret not, our paku pakis is safe to be consumed, contrary to claims on social media.
Plant and life sciences expert Prof Datuk Mohamed Abdul Majid said the local fern, which is the commonest type of fern consumed in Malaysia, was not only edible but is also nutritious and rich in antioxidants, with high fibre content.
The Universiti Malaya emeritus professor was responding to a viral message on social media warning the public not to consume paku pakis, claiming that it causes cancer.
The message had based its claim on a Wikipedia article that the “ptaquiloside” – a norsesquiterpene glucoside – produced by bracken ferns has been identified as the main carcinogen of the ferns, and is responsible for biological effects, including cancer in humans.
Mohamed Abdul said while the carcinogen compound could be found in a few ferns such as the bracken fern, it has never been identified in the popular paku pakis and paku miding (another popular fern).
“The warning is totally a lie. Furthermore, Malaysians do not consume bracken ferns,” he said in a statement, adding that ptaquiloside carcinogen has not been found in the fern species that Malaysians consume.
He said in Malaysia, bracken ferns (or pteridium aquilinum) proliferates in secondary forests that have been burnt, and are not appetising as the texture is extremely fibrous and hard.
Mohamed Abdul pointed out that while the country has an estimated 1,165 species of ferns, 50 of which are used either as food or medicine, only five were consumed commonly.
The other three are paku uban, paku tunjuk langit, and paku piai, all of which have good nutritional value.
“Our local ferns are the original organic vegetables because artificial fertilisers and pesticides are not used. In that sense, they are safer to consume than the vegetables grown in farms, that need lots of fertilisers and pesticides.