I love me some Fiddleheads almost as much as I love a good Irish folk song. What do they have in common? The fiddle of course. Fiddleheads resemble the head of a fiddle and that’s exactly how they got their name. These lovely unfurled fronds of the ostrich fern begin to come up late April to early May along river and stream banks, in open woodlands and at the edges of swamps and marshes across New Brunswick, Quebec and Ontario.
If you are into food foraging, this is definitely one to be on the lookout for, but it’s a limited time offer with these babies because they are only good for the picking for a few weeks! Also, make sure you know exactly what you are looking for because not all ferns are edible. I was introduced to them just last year in my weekly fruit and vegetable basket that I receive from Mama Earth Organics. They arrived this past Friday again and I couldn’t wait to feast on them!
A word of caution: Make sure you either steam or boil your fiddleheads before sauteing them or adding to a stir fry and never consume raw! Undercooked and raw fiddleheads have been linked to cases of foodborne illness. Food safety specialists from the University of Maine recommend that you boil your fiddleheads for 15 min or steam them for 10-12 min before consuming.
I like to boil and then saute, so I boil them for a little less time so they are not overly soft. If you feel more comfortable cooking them for longer before sauteing, do that! Here’s the method I like to use:
1) Clean the fiddleheads thoroughly, removing any brown fuzz and dirt.
2) Trim the woody stems, leaving only a small amount of stem beyond the circular part. The stems are bitter!
3) Cook in salted, boiling water for about 5-7 minutes (your fork should easily poke through them).
4) Transfer to an ice bath and then pat dry (this will help them retain their fabulous green colour).
5) Heat some coconut oil (extra virgin will have coconut flavour, so you might want to use just virgin or non-virgin) or butter in pan on medium heat and saute your fiddleheads for about 5 minutes. You can add some garlic and onions to the pan first if you wish!
6) Add salt, pepper and a squeeze of lemon and serve with some butter if you wish (grass-fed, organic is best).
In the meal pictured, I followed the method above and then combined the fiddleheads with leftover butternut squash and chicken. Simple and delicious!
How do you like your fiddleheads?