Fiddleheads main page


  Baked fiddleheads
  Fiddlehead flan
  Fiddlehead soufflé
  Fiddlehead soup
  Fiddleheads and black olive salad
  Fidleheads, asparagus and new potatoes
  Fiddlehead with white bean and shrimp salad
  Fiddleheads with morels and lobster
  Flounder with fiddleheads and carrots
  Garlic flavored fiddleheads
  Potato soup with fiddleheads and garlic croutons
  Sautéed fiddleheads with pancetta
  Veal with fiddlehead and shiatake sauce

Fiddlehead Ferns
This section is dedicated to Mrs Céline Legouffe, from Cascapedia St. Jules
Québec, Canada, a professional fiddlehead harvester.

Fiddleheads are young, edible, fern shoots that are gathered when they are still curled. They are very similar in shape to the head of a violin, hence their name.
These vegetables are gathered in the spring when they are still tightly curled and between 4 and 6 inches high. This period last for about 15 days between mid-April and early July, depending on the region.
Fiddleheads must be collected just days after they emerge, as the plants become inedible once they uncoil.
North American Indians appreciated fiddleheads long before the arrival of Europeans. The plant has also been known to the Japanese and the aboriginal peoples of Australia and New Zealand.
There are thousands of varieties of ferns, only a few of which produce edible shoots. Edible varieties include the ostrich fern and the buckhorn, or cinnamon fern. The fiddleheads of the bracken fern, which are highly prized in Japan, contain a carcinogenic substance that can be neutralized by roasting the plants before using them. Brakes rise in single fronds, and the fiddleheads are more bitter tasting than those of the ostrich fern.
Buying fiddleheads:
Fiddleheads are sold fresh, frozen, or canned. Fresh fiddleheads are available only in the spring. They should be bright green, firm and tightly curled. The stems should be short and the heads between 3/4 and 11/2 inches in diameter. When picking your own fiddleheads, be sure to correctly identify the different types of ferns, as some inedible varieties cause food poisoning.
It is very important not to cut the plant to the ground, as it will be unable to reproduce. In the case of the ostrich fern, collect three to five fiddleheads per plant, snapping them by hand. Do not use any metal instruments to cut the ferns.
To rid the fiddleheads of their scales, rub them between your hands, or place them in a bag, and shake it. Wash fiddleheads well and drain them before using.
Nutritional information:
Fiddleheads are a good source of potassium; they also contain vitamin C, niacin and iron.
Storing fiddleheads:
Fiddleheads are perishable and should be refrigerated as soon as possible to prevent them from ripening further, and uncurling in the process. Wrap them in plastic bag and refrigerate for up to 3 days. Fiddleheads stand up well to freezing when blanched for 2 to 3 minutes. Plunge into cold water immediately after blanching and dry them thoroughly before freezing. Blanched fiddleheads will keep for up to 9 months in the freezer.

Cooking Fiddleheads

There is much discussion about the flavor of these succulent greens. Some describe it as a cross between asparagus and broccoli; others say it is a combination of asparagus and mushroom. Fiddleheads have a unique flavor that reminds you they have just come up from the soil. The exquisite flavor of fern is at its best when they're served within hours of picking, either steamed just until tender, about 8 minutes, or cooked, uncovered, in a large amount of boiling salted water for 5 to 7 minutes or until stalks are bright green and tender crisp. (Do not overcook. Overcooking robs them not only of their color, taste and texture but some of their nutrients as well.)

As a general rule, do not thaw frozen fiddleheads; simply boil or steam frozen fiddleheads for 6 to 10 minutes or just until tender crisp. Do not add baking soda to the cooking liquid, as this will affect their color. Do not be alarmed if the water turns brownish; this normal.
Fresh fiddleheads are best enhanced only by butter, salt, pepper and a sprinkling of fresh lemon juice or vinegar. Do not overpower their subtle flavor with heavy sauces or combine them with highly flavored foods or seasonings. For a salad, simply toss in a light vinaigrette dressing (oil and vinegar or lemon juice) seasoned with a little minced shallots and a pinch of mustard.
Part of this article is an excerpt from The Canadian Living Cookbook.


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