Of all the wild edible plants, fiddlehead ferns are some of the most unique and flavorful. Fiddleheads are the unfurled new leaves of a fern. Now after I publish this post, I hope I don’t see my friend, Sara, out grazing for these tasty delights or Myrna harvesting them for supper. Most people don’t know how good these are to eat as most people just view ferns as something to gaze upon while hiking in a forest.
The term “fiddlehead ferns” is a general description of any number of species, which might include Lady fern, Ostricth fern, shield fern, and Bracken fern. And, no, Sara, Lady ferns don’t necessarily mean that those are the ones you want to dine on most. These may well replace Brussels sprouts in her diet. As with all wild foods, however, it is best to eat them in moderation, especially initially.
Fiddleheads are generally gathered in early spring time. The best time generally falls around the month of March and that is why this post is coming your way at this time.
Collect the fiddleheads when they are still tightly curled as they quickly become less palatable as they unfurl. Also, remove any of the brown, papery chaff from fiddleheads. The most effective way to remove the chaff is by rubbing gently with the hands. Washing in cold water can also help. Generally, ferns grow in areas where there are soils along wetlands, stream banks, moist woods or forest edges.
There is a wide range of ways in which to cook and enjoy fiddleheads. They can be eaten steamed, boiled, in soups, sautéed or stir-fried, fried or baked. A classic way to cook and serve fiddleheads is sautéed with just some butter or oil and seasoning. This is a great way to try them for the first time. Also, you could try them cooked with bacon and/or garlic and wild mushrooms. They are also great on pizza, in scrambles, spaghetti sauce and casseroles.
Make sure to cook them thoroughly, as uncooked fiddleheads contain thiaminase which is a vitamin B depleting enzyme. Heat destroys this enzyme and makes the fiddleheads safe to eat. I’m sure that after reading this Sara and Myrna will be demanding fiddleheads to dine upon often while watching Fiddler on the Roof!
Maybe next time I’ll discuss the rock tripe plant which tastes like the white of an egg! Mmm good!