Fiddleheads are the tightly coiled heads of the ostrich fern. This springtime delicacy has a grassy flavour, similar to asparagus, and a somewhat crunchy texture.
Fiddleheads are an excellent source of the antioxidant beta-carotene and niacin, a B vitamin that keeps hair, skin and our nervous system healthy. They also offer a decent amount of potassium and vitamin C.
Thanks to their deep green colour, fiddleheads also contain beta-carotene, a powerful antioxidant also found in dark green and bright orange vegetables.
Per 1/2 cup (125 ml) serving
|Beta carotene||1234 ug|
|Vitamin C||16 mg|
Source: Canadian Nutrient File, 2007
* Fiddleheads should never be eaten raw. They should be thoroughly cooked before eating or adding to recipes. See "Preparing" below.
Fiddleheads have been enjoyed for centuries around the world. Here in Canada, fiddleheads grow on the East coast and in Quebec and Ontario. While there are many varieties of fern, the ostrich and cinnamon fern are the only two that are edible and safe to eat. Other varieties of fern may look similar, but can be poisonous.
Fiddleheads available in grocery stores are safe to eat, but care should be taken if you are foraging for these greens on your own.
Fresh fiddleheads are available during their short growing season, late April to early June.
When buying fresh fiddleheads, look for those that are tightly curled, bright green in colour and have a crisp texture. Some fiddleheads may still have a brown, onion-like skin covering the coil, which should be removed before eating.
Avoid any fiddleheads that have begun to uncurl - as this is an indication that they are no longer edible. Ideally, fiddleheads should have a tight coil.
Frozen fiddleheads are available in some major grocery and specialty food stores year-round.
Fresh fiddleheads should be stored with care to keep them fresh and intact. Loosely wrap unwashed fiddleheads in a paper towel and store in a plastic bag in the refrigerator.
While fiddleheads can stay in the refrigerator for up to 10 days, it's best to eat them within a few days for maximum freshness and quality.
You can also blanch and freeze fresh fiddleheads if you want to enjoy them later in the season. Frozen fiddleheads keep for up to one year.
Remove the brown, papery skin on fiddleheads with your fingers or small brush before washing or cooking them. Alternatively, place fiddleheads in a paper bag and shake it to remove the scaly skin. To wash fiddleheads, rinse them in several changes of cold water to remove any husk, dust or dirt.
Fiddleheads should always be cooked thoroughly before eating. Health Canada recommends that fresh fiddleheads be washed several times in fresh cold water. Remove as much of the brown husk as possible from the fiddleheads.
They should then be cooked in boiling water for 15 minutes or steamed for 10 to 12 minutes until tender. Fiddleheads should also be boiled or steamed prior to sautéing, frying or baking. Read Health Canada's Food Safety Advisory on fiddleheads.
If you plan to freeze fresh fiddleheads, they must be blanched first. To blanch fiddleheads, boil them for 2 minutes, remove and then rinse under cold water. Blanched fiddleheads can be stored in an airtight resealable freezer bag for up to one year. Previously frozen fiddleheads should still be cooked according to the directions mentioned above before eating.
Fiddleheads taste similar to asparagus and have a crunchy texture like green beans. They' re best eaten on their own, drizzled with olive oil and seasoned with salt and pepper.
But, of course, there are plenty of other ways to enjoy fiddleheads - in soups, pastas, egg dishes, stir-fries, even ice cream! Fiddleheads go especially well with cheese, tomato and cream sauces.
Healthy ways to enjoy
- Add cooked fiddleheads to an omelet, frittata or quiche.
- Serve steamed fiddleheads alongside your morning eggs and toast.
- Toss cooked fiddleheads with cooked wild rice or quinoa and top with fresh herbs and lemon juice for a nutritious whole grain pilaf or salad.
- Enjoy a hearty soup made with spring vegetables such as fiddleheads, peas, mushrooms and fresh herbs.
- Enjoy fiddleheads on their own sautéed in olive oil with garlic and lemon.
- Make a tasty pesto by pureeing cooked fiddleheads, olive oil, walnuts, chopped garlic and fresh lemon juice. Toss with warm pasta for a delicious dinner.
- Add cooked fiddleheads to your favourite stir-fry.
- Fiddlehead ice cream anyone? This odd combination will have you asking for seconds (see recipe).
Wikipedia - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fiddlehead_fern
Cottage Life - 10 Fun Facts About Fiddleheads
Food and Wine - Everythng You Need to Know About Fiddlehead Ferns
Did you know?
- Fiddleheads aren't just a North American delicacy, they are also found in Asia, Australia and New Zealand.
- Always cook fiddleheads before eating them! Health Canada advises consumers to cook fiddleheads thoroughly to remove a natural toxin present in some fiddleheads.
- Once fiddleheads have uncurled into a mature fern, they are no longer edible or safe to eat.