Fiddleheads for Spring!

Mon, Apr 12, 2010


There are many foods that are in season right now during Spring, but one that you can only find during Spring that is a delicacy and is only around for a short time (approximately 2 weeks) starting in early April in the south up until July in colder climates like Canada are fiddleheads! These fancy looking fern fronds are crunchy in texture with a bitter and  wild earthy flavor, some even say they have an added sweet flavor with the bitter, making for an interesting ingredient!

Fiddleheads, unlike most foods we eat, aren’t cultivated. Instead they are wild and are only available during the spring. They are also found in many different locations in the world and with a few different varieties. Fiddleheads have been traditional in the diets of many places such as Asia, Australia and New Zealand, and were used by the Native Americans.

The most popular varieties of fiddlehead ferns are:

Bracken – found worldwide
Ostrich fern – found in northern regions of the world and central/eastern areas of North America
Cinnamon fern (buckhorn fern) – found in eastern area of North America
Royal fern – found worldwide
Zenmai (flowering) fern – found in East Asia
Vegetable fern – found in Asia and  Oceania

Of the above, it is suggested by most, to only eat the Ostrich fern fiddleheads, as they are considered to be the least harmful if not prepared properly. The others are thought to possibly cause nausea, dizziness, and headaches.

As for the health benefits of fiddleheads, they are rich in iron, potassium, minerals, and vitamins A and C. These health benefits, however, only outweigh the bad health effects when the fiddle heads are cooked properly. First, remove all yellow/brown skin and wash the fiddleheads several times, using  fresh cold water to remove any excess dirt or left over skin. They should be a vibrant green.

Before cooking fiddleheads in any other way, boil or steam them for about 15 minutes in total and discard the water afterwards. This will get rid of not only a lot of the bitter flavor but will also get rid of any toxins or carcinogens. Do not eat fiddleheads raw or undercooked.

Many people choose to harvest their own fiddleheads but it’s suggested that one should treat fiddleheads with the same caution as with wild mushrooms and let the professionals do it if you aren’t positive about which are the right ones to pick.

Fiddleheads are considered a delicacy that many love, but are still an acquired taste to others. Do you like fiddleheads? What’s your favorite way to prepare them? Here’s a quote to remember when giving them a try:

“The fiddlehead ferns are gathering strength beneath their decaying caps of leaves from last fall and I see the bulges as they prepare to burst through and spread their fronds to the sky.  I lay in wait with a paring knife, and on the perfect morning when they pop out, WHACK and into my basket they go.  It should be only a few weeks until they are here, then we will sauté them with a little beurre noisette, or steam them briefly and toss them with a little hazelnut oil and sherry vinegar.  Simple is best, they taste of the forest and the season.  Delightful little tidbits will be here soon, then gone again so quickly.  One of the treasures of spring. “ - Amy on the fiddlehead ferns topic at Chef’s Blade

Photo by Slightlynorth

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This post was written by:

Rochelle - who has written 324 posts on Made in Kitchen Blog.

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11 Responses to “Fiddleheads for Spring!”

  1. Bonnie Says:

    Inreresting but I have never seen them in a supermarket. Also I do not think I would try to pick them to cook.

  2. Rochelle Says:

    This could be that they aren’t available in your area due to either none of the foragers that are picking them sharing or that there just aren’t that many fiddlehead ferns around. I have seen some websites that will freeze them and ship them out to you though :)

  3. Andrew Latvis Says:

    Many fiddle heads in markets. 3.00$ a lb cleaned! Looking for specific directions on canning fiddleheads. The pickled ones we did last year still crunch.

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