Fantastic Fiddleheads

Fantastic Fiddleheads

Spring time is one of the most highly-anticipated times of year for dwellers of eastern Canada. The melting of the snow and longer days give way to thoughts of summertime, and eliminate the depression of the short, cold days of winter.

In addition to that, it’s also the time to harvest fiddleheads.

Fiddleheads are a wild vegetable that grows, typically, in the east. New Brunswick, where I’m from, is full of them, and Quebec and the eastern United States also find the little green coils springing up come May. The fiddlehead is a vegetable that is the youngest part of various species of fern, and produces a tender yet savory flavour.

Fiddleheads are considered a popular seasonal option for vegetarians, vegans and carnivores alike because they are a fitting accompaniment to any meal and go especially well with potatoes. They can become a flavourful base for soups, creating a meal on its own. They are also high in nutrients, such as vitamins A and C, potassium, folate, iron and fibre. In addition, they have antioxidant activity and are a source of Omega 3 and 6.

Cooking them properly is very important, as they are wild vegetables that grow close to the ground and do tend to have dirt caught up in their coils. Cleaning them properly is also important. I’m going to go over how best to clean them and one, very basic, way to cook them, in this post. Considering I just cooked half my bag and have another half waiting, I may have another recipe surfacing over the next couple of days. For now, though, we’ll go with this.

This recipe is going based on 1 lb. of fiddleheads, which should produce a fair serving for up to 4 people. I paid $4 for a pound, which is reasonable for a side dish so rich in vitamins and minerals. It seems like I will get 2 meals out of it, too, so that’s a bonus! The best thing about fiddleheads is that they are naturally grown and rarely cultivated, so you can go for a walk in the woods and may find a bunch of them. Picking them is a whole other animal, so I won’t get into it here (though here is a great site for tips on picking fiddleheads), but keep in mind that picking them will make them a FREE FEED for you. What’s better than free food when on a budget?!

Prep time: 30-45 minutes
Serves: 2-4 people
Cooking time: 20-30 minutes (depending on whether you boil them and have that be all, or if you saute them afterward)
Difficulty: Moderate
Cost: roughly $5/lb… free if you pick your own!

Start by cleaning the fiddleheads. You should remove any yellow or brown parts and trim the stems, especially if the fronds are not freshly picked. Place them in a bowl and leave them to soak for about 10 minutes. I went the extra mile and changed the water to leave them to soak a little longer. After they are cleaned to your satisfaction, boil them on high for about 10 minutes. Change the water, then bring them to a boil once more for another 10. After this, you may strain them and serve them with some butter. Try adding hollandaise sauce if you’re in the mood for something a little richer.

After they’ve been steamed, you can also saute them in a pan with some butter and a splash of lemon juice. I did this and they were fantastic! Add a little salt and a small amount of vinegar to give the fiddleheads some zing.

And there you have it! A delicious, healthy side dish that is even a little rare due to its short harvesting time. Use fiddleheads you picked to give your meal the illusion of being a fancy, expensive dish, or to impress friends from out of town.

EDIT: Enjoy watching this inane video of me cooking some fiddleheads.

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