Nothing signifies spring like new buds on the trees and birds singing in the air. Everything starts to come out of winter hibernation and new life is born. We’ve had a slow start to our spring this year but spring has finally sprung in the food world! How would culinary gourmands decide this? well…Fiddleheads of course! With a growing season that lasts only a few weeks in late April and early May (later this year), Fiddleheads are considered one of the first treasures of spring, making them a rare but popular delicacy.
What’s a Fiddlehead?
Fiddleheads, also called crosiers, are the young unfurled leaves of the ostrich fern that grow beside riverbanks and streams in the wet areas of Northeastern North America. Fiddleheads get their playful name as they resemble the curved neck of a violin, or fiddle.
Fiddleheads have a strong spinach taste, while many others compare their taste to asparagus, green beans or broccoli. They have a high nutritional punch, containing omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids and twice the disease-fighting antioxidants of blueberries. They also contain Iron, Potassium, Vitamin A, Vitamin C and are a good source of dietary fiber.
Choosing the right Fiddlehead?
Like morels and other wild foods, fiddleheads should never be eaten raw. Fiddleheads may harbor microbes and should be washed and cooked properly to prevent possible stomach upset.
When buying fresh fiddleheads, look for those that are tightly curled, bright green in colour and have a crisp texture. Avoid any fiddleheads that have begun to uncurl – as this is an indication that they are no longer edible. Fiddleheads are available in the market for only a few weeks in springtime, and are fairly expensive. Pickled and frozen fiddleheads, however, can be found in some stores year-round.
To Wash Fiddleheads: Rinse them in several changes of fresh cold water to remove any papery onion like husk, dust or dirt.
To Cook Fiddleheads: Fiddleheads should always be cooked thoroughly before eating. Health Canada recommends boiling them for 15 minutes or steaming for 10 to 12 minutes until tender. Fiddleheads should also be cooked prior to sautéing, frying or baking.