Fiddlehead fern season is upon us; enjoy it while it lasts because it’s only just a few weeks long!
Appreciated by many gardeners for their green, feathery plumes, fiddlehead ferns, or ostrich ferns, are also popular in many kitchens this time of year. They get the name ‘fiddlehead’ because before the fern’s foliage opens up, the furled fronds look very similar to the scroll of a violin.
The fiddleheads grow abundantly across New England, central and eastern Canada, and remain in coiled form for just a few weeks in mid-spring. They can be harvested at this point and eaten as a vegetable! Their taste is often described as a cross between asparagus, green beans, and okra.
The fronds are packed with nutrition, an excellent source of protein, vitamin C, vitamin A, iron, fiber, and potassium. Because they can only be eaten fresh for just a short time every year, they’re considered to be a delicacy by many chefs.
Know The Difference
While it might be tempting to go searching for fiddleheads and harvest them yourself, you must make sure you know what you are picking! There are many fern varieties out there, and many of them are not edible. Some of them are even toxic, such as the foxglove and bracken ferns.
Still interested in foraging? Watch the video below from the University of Maine on how to correctly identify ostrich ferns.
Prepare Them Properly
Many commercial fern farms are popping up in parts of North America, so if harvesting in the wild isn’t your thing, this time of year you can purchase fiddlehead ferns at the supermarket.
Before you eat them, it’s essential to know that if not cooked properly, fiddlehead ferns can cause food poisoning. Health Canada has made the following recommendations when it comes to preparing the veggie:
- Remove the brown papery husk on the fiddlehead with your fingers.
- Wash them thoroughly to remove any leftover husk and any dirt.
- Boil the fiddleheads on the stove for at least 10-15 minutes – even if you plan to saute, fry, bake or add them to soups afterward.
There are many ways to serve the ferns, but I kept it simple and boiled them for 10 minutes before frying them in some butter and garlic. The result was a green that tasted similar to beans and asparagus. The kids even liked them!
Enjoy them for dinner for just a few weeks, or in the garden much longer.