One of my favourite things about spring is the gradual addition of fresh, local fruits and vegetables to our daily meal plan. One of the spring vegetables I particularly get excited about are fiddleheads. If you have never eaten fiddleheads before or if you have seen them while strolling through the produce section at your local supermarket but hesitated to pick them up, you are in for a pleasant surprise!
Fiddleheads may look funny, but they taste good!
Despite this vegetable’s unusual curly appearance, fiddleheads are actually quite delicious. Their mild taste has been likened to that of asparagus or spinach, and cooked correctly their texture is crunchy, with a wee bit of leafy chewiness. If your kids like their green vegetables then they should like fiddleheads.
Storing, preparing & cooking fiddleheads
Fiddleheads should be stored in the fridge and only stay fresh for a few days (I like to buy them the same day as I cook them). They are easy to prepare and cook.
1. Fill your sink or a bowl with fresh, cold water
2. Remove any brown outer scales with your hand or by using a cloth
3. Trim or snap off the ends of the stems
4. Rinse them again in cold water
Fiddleheads can be steamed, sautéed, stir-fried or (my favourite) barbecued.
How to BBQ fiddleheads
Simply put the washed and trimmed fiddleheads in a bowl and mix with a desired amount of olive oil (not too much, just a tbsp. or two depending how many fiddleheads you have), freshly squeezed lemon juice, minced garlic, and salt and pepper.
Stir until the fiddleheads are fully covered with the oily sauce then place them in tinfoil and fold until just a small portion of the fiddleheads can be seen (to let the steam out).
Place on the BBQ at about 400 degrees for about 10 minutes or until the fiddleheads are bright green and soft in texture (a fork will easily pierce them). Be careful not to overcook them or they will become mushy.
Fiddleheads are high in omega 3 fatty acids, fibre, vitamins A and C as well as potassium, iron, manganese and Vitamin B Complex. They are also a great antioxidant food.
Fiddleheads are grown mainly in the east coast of Canada from ostrich ferns, so although there are several different varieties of ferns, including some grown in the woods or even in your garden they should not be consumed. Only expert harvesters can safely identify edible fiddleheads, so don’t just pick any old fern head and cook it up or you risk getting very ill!
The fiddlehead season is very short – usually a month maximum (around April and May) and unlike some fruits and vegetables that gets imported you generally won’t see fiddleheads in stores if they are not in season. They grow quickly and must be picked the day they sprout – before they turn into full out ferns!
Fiddleheads are a delicious seasonal treat and I like to think of them as the kick off to local produce season! So, have are you a fiddlehead loving family like we are? I’d love to know your recipe! And if you haven't tried them yet - NOW is your chance!