Spring is FINALLY here in the North Eastern US, and now is the time to go foraging for fiddleheads!
From http://pages.uoregon.edu/ecostudy/elp/ntfp/Fiddleheads%20Final.htm: “Fiddleheads are the edible young fern fronds (crosiers) that rise from the plant each year in the spring. They are called fiddleheads because they are usually tightly coiled and resemble the head of a fiddle. Three edible fiddlehead species grow in the United States. Ostrich Fern, Matteuccia struthiopteris, is the species most commonly harvested and commercially marketed, but it does not grow in the Pacific Northwest. Bracken fern,Pteridium aquilinum, and lady fern, Athyrium filix-femina are the two edible fiddlehead species in the Pacific Northwest. The fiddlehead is and has been an important food and medicine for Native Americans, Asians, and many other people throughout the world. Other parts of these ferns, such as the rhizome are also edible, and the mature fronds can also be used in many ways.”
Good photos and information on identification can be found here:
Once you have identified the fiddleheads as safe, what do you do with them?
Fiddleheads can be cleaned by first placing them in a colander and thoroughly rinse/spray them off with clean cold potable water. Placing the rinsed fiddlehead in a bowl full of clean cool potable water should follow rinsing to remove the remainder of the brown papery coverings, and repeat as needed. They should appear clean at this point.
Remember to keep fiddleheads refrigerated until you are ready to cook or preserve them. They can be stored in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.
Fiddleheads can be safely cooked using two different methods, boiling and steaming.
Bring lightly salted water in a pot to a rolling boil and add washed fiddleheads. The water should fully cover fiddleheads when added. Bring the water back to a steady boil and hold for 15 minutes.
Bring a small amount of water to a boil preferably in steam apparatus. Add washed clean fiddleheads and steam for 10-12 minutes.
Serve at once with optional melted butter and/or vinegar. The sooner they are eaten, the more delicate their flavor. They may be served, like asparagus, on toast. Cooked, chilled fiddleheads can be also served as a salad with an onion and vinegar dressing.
Sautéing, stir-frying or microwaving ostrich fern fiddleheads are NOT recommended methods for cooking fiddleheads.Fiddleheads should be boiled or steamed prior to use in recipes which use further cooking methods like sauteing, stir-frying or baking.” http://umaine.edu/publications/4198e/
A quick fiddlehead pickle recipe is posted at: http://earthydelightsblog.com/?p=2023
Quick Pickled Fiddleheads
- 1 lb fiddlehead ferns, rinsed and trimmed
- 1 small shallot, thinly sliced
- 2 cups white wine vinegar (substitute cider or rice wine vinegar)
- 1 tsp yellow mustard seeds
- 2 star anise
- 1 tsp Rainbow Peppercorn blend
- 1 tsp salt
- ¼ tsp crushed chile peppers
- 1 2-inch cinnamon stick
- ¼ cup sugar, Demerara or Turbinado
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 cup water
Rinse the fiddleheads under cold running water and trim the broken ends with a sharp knife.
Heat a large pot of salted water (about 1 Tbsp per quart) to boiling. Blanch the fiddleheads in the boiling water for about 30 seconds, then drain immediately and plunge them into ice water to stop the cooking process. Drain again thoroughly and place into a large non-reactive heatproof bowl.
Peel and thinly slice the shallot into rings and toss into the bowl with the fiddleheads.
In a large, non-reactive pot, heat the remaining ingredients to boiling, then reduce heat and simmer for about 5 minutes. Pour the hot vinegar/spice mixture over the fiddleheads. Allow to stand until cooled to room temperature. Cover tightly or ladle into jars and refrigerate for up to two weeks.
You can find more great fiddlehead recipes at: