Fiddleheads are fun, tasty, healthy, versatile and even a little bit dangerous! They will appeal to people who love wild, earthy and slightly bitter flavours common among green veggies known to have powerful healing effects. Think: asparagus, green beans, artichoke, okra and broccoli. Yum.
Yesterday was my second time trying “Spring’s first fruit”, considered a delicacy in many places like the Maritimes (CBC video clip). While this veggie is crunchy and scrumptious lightly fried in olive oil (the only way I’ve tried it so far) but for the rustic gourmet, there’s no end to the possibilities of fiddlehead cuisine!
Here are just a few other reasons why this vegetable is so impressive:
Fun Facts about Fiddleheads
- They are baby ferns with their leaves still tightly coiled near the stem. They got their name because they look like the end of a violin or fiddle!
- North American aboriginal people were first to capitalize on the medicinal qualities of fiddleheads, said to act as a natural cleansing agent ridding the body of accumulated impurities and toxins. (Vitality Magazine)
- It is also reported that fiddleheads were an olden day treatment for high blood pressure, and eaten to ward off scurvy.
- Usually foraged in the bush, you can now often find them in many commercial grocers. Several farmers have been attempting to cultivate them, including Nick Secord in Port Colbourne. (Toronto Star)
- They’re only available for a couple of weeks in May before they grow too large to eat. But you can dry, freeze, pickle or can them to enjoy whenever!
- Linda Gabris wrote that her grandmother made fiddlehead tea to cure constipation and a sping tonic as a cure-all. Read her nostagic article for these recipes and more.
A Healthy Choice of Veggie
Fiddleheads are loaded with vitamin A & C, iron, potassium, niacin, riboflavin, magnesium and phosphorus. They are an excellent source of protein and rich in antioxidants.
- This Canadian Living article suggests tips in how to pick your own, where to buy, how to prep and cook them, as well as a recipe for Fiddlehead Spaghetti Frittata.
- Fiddle-heads.com gives some advice in how to select fiddleheads, handle and store them, as well as some quick, easy cooking ideas.
The Danger of Fiddleheads
Some varieties of fiddleheads are inedible – this wiki article lists the safe variety.
Although we’ve been eating fiddleheads for centuries, it’s important to know even the edible fiddleheads have shikimic acid, a mild poison to humans, and must be removed by blanching or cooking.
Food poisoning outbreaks in 1994 and 1999 were linked to consumption of raw or undercooked fiddleheads. Cases have been rare since but Health Canada suggests boiling fiddleheads for at least 15 minutes or steaming them for 10 to 12.
I lightly fried mine for 6 minutes on each side and if you read through some of the above sources, you’ll find some fiddlehead fans like to take a walk on the wild side. However dante you dare to go with fiddleheads, the handling recommendations are consistent: remove the entire thin, brown chafe or husk and use lots of water.
What to do now?
If you’re in Ontario, this coming Victoria Day weekend is the perfect time to venture into the woods and pick fiddleheads with the family! If you’re not Canadian but want to learn more about our local foods and seasons, check out Live Lighter’s other Local, Seasonal & Organic posts.
Have you ever picked fiddleheads? Do you like them or have any recipes to share?