May 28 2013
Fiddleheads are the furled fronds of a young ostrich fern commonly found near rivers and streams. Because they cannot be cultivated, fiddleheads are only available for a few weeks every spring and are harvested before the fern unrolls completely. The ostrich fern grows wild in certain parts of North Eastern North America and is the variety most likely to be on tables here. Fiddleheads are an excellent source of Omega 3 and Omega 6 as well as iron and fibre. Imagine a combination of asparagus, broccoli and green beans and you’ll get the flavour of fiddleheads.
Fiddleheads can be cleaned by first placing them in a colander and thoroughly rinsing them off with clean cold water. After washing, place the rinsed fiddleheads in a bowl full of clean cool water to remove the remainder of the brown papery coverings, and repeat as needed. They should appear clean at this point.
Keep fiddleheads refrigerated until you are ready to cook or preserve them. They can be stored in the refrigerator for up to two weeks in a container filled with water. Make sure to change the water in the container every couple of days.
Fiddleheads can be cooked using two different methods, boiling and steaming.
Bring lightly salted water in a pot to a rolling boil and add washed fiddleheads without stopping the boil. If the water stops boiling you added too many fiddleheads. Therefore, make sure to boil them in enough water. If the water loses its boil, don’t worry, simply bring the water back to a steady boil and cook for 15 minutes.
Bring a small amount of water to a boil preferably in steamer. Add cleaned fiddleheads and steam for 10-12 minutes.
You can serve them once they are cooked with melted butter, some garlic and a bit of lemon juice. Or try them tossed with a bit of olive oil and a mild vinegar such as white wine vinegar. The sooner they are eaten, the more delicate their flavour. They’re also great chilled. Fiddleheads can be added to a salad with an onion and vinegar dressing or as part of a quinoa salad. You can even use them in stir fries provided they are fully cooked before adding them to the stir fry.
To freeze fiddleheads, blanch them for 2 minutes in boiling water and then submerge them in ice cold water until completely cold. Strain them thoroughly and place them in freezer bags. When you want to eat them you’ll have to thaw them completely and then cook them by boiling or steaming as described above.
Fiddleheads can be kept frozen for up to a year. You can also find them in some grocery stores either frozen or canned.
They are delicious, nutritious and incredibly flavourful…but they’re only around fresh for a short time so take advantage of the season!