My daughter and I were having a conversation about various adventures in eating and fiddleheads came up … I don’t remember ever serving or eating fiddleheads but she seems to recall having tried them at some point … shrug?
The vast majority of my exposure to fiddleheads comes from reading Stephen King’s the Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon. A little girl becomes lost in the woods while on a hike with her family. Hunger leads her to foraging in the forest and she comes across fiddleheads, which she proceeds to eat raw. She survives her ordeal but apparently one should NEVER eat fiddleheads raw! That’s why it’s called fiction.
Always on the lookout for new taste “sensations” that are on the healthy and low-cal side I decided that since this was the season for fiddleheads, I would check into how to prepare them.
Wanting a reliable source I went to the Government of Canada website at http://healthycanadians.gc.ca/eating-nutrition/safety-salubrite/fiddlehead-fougere-eng.php#a8 which included fiddlehead safety tips (always a good place to start when preparing a food with which one is not familiar.
“Fiddleheads are the curled, edible shoots of the ostrich fern and are considered a seasonal delicacy in many parts of North America. Fresh fiddleheads ferns are only available in the Spring and the rest of the year they can be found frozen”
Using your fingers, remove as much of the brown papery husk on the fiddlehead as possible. Wash the fiddleheads in several changes of fresh, cold water to remove any residual husk or dirt.
Cook fiddleheads in a generous amount of boiling water for 15 minutes, or steam them for 10 to 12 minute until tender. Discard the water used for boiling or steaming the fiddleheads.
Cook fiddleheads before sautéing, frying, baking, or using them in other foods like mousses and soups.
Clean the fiddleheads properly.
Boil them for two minutes.
Discard the cooking water.
Plunge the fiddleheads into cold water and drain.
Pack the fiddleheads in freezer containers or bags.
Store the fiddleheads in the freezer for up to one year for best quality.
Follow the complete cooking instructions above before serving.
NEVER refreeze thawed food.
Do not use pressure canner to preserve fiddleheads at home. Safe process times have not been established for home-preserved fiddleheads.
“Fiddleheads are unique in their appearance, taste, and nutritional profile. The curly young shoots contain only 34 calories per 100 grams, yet their high quality plant-nutrition profile consists of health benefiting antioxidants, vitamins, and omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.”
Fiddleheads are very high in antioxidant vitamin-A, containing 120% of the daily-recommended requirement.
Fiddleheads are an excellent source of B-carotenes.
Their sweet taste comes from their richness in Vitamin-C, containing 26% of the daily-recommended requirement.
They are an excellent source of minerals and electrolytes, especially potassium, iron, magnesium and copper.
IMPORTANT ** IMPORTANT ** IMPORTANT
Unless you are ABSOLUTELY POSITIVE you know what you are doing, purchase them at a market or in the produce section.
Not all fiddlehead ferns in the woods are suitable for human consumption. Only ostrich fern is free from toxins. Other types of ferns such as foxglove and bracken ferns are not safe to eat because they may be toxic or carcinogenic.
When I was looking for some easy recipes to try with fiddleheads it was frequently pointed out that their taste is comparable to asparagus. Fiddleheads seem to be a natural paring with seafood as many recipes were simply steamed and then sautéed fiddleheads served with some version of salmon. They also seem to pair well sautéed with bacon and onions and/or served with pasta. I even came across a recipe for making fiddlehead wine at http://winemaking.jackkeller.net/request213.asp
At http://www.closetcooking.com/2011/06/fiddlehead-tart.html I found this recipe which was a slightly different, and very attractive, use for the fiddleheads -- Fiddlehead Tart with Gruyere Cheese.
The most comprehensive recipe sight for fiddleheads that I came across was http://www.blisstree.com/2013/04/15/food/vegetarian-recipes-for-spring-with-fiddlehead-ferns/#1 offering 10 vegetarian recipes for fiddleheads ferns. The soup sounded very tempting and since it’s my first time trying these little delicacies that may be the way I go.