Fiddleheads!

Posted: May 16, 2011 in Nutrition, Recipes
Tags: , ,

They say that when “God closes a door he opens a window”, and this is very evident right now in the Produce aisle at my local supermarket.  The season for my beloved pomegranates has long since passed but, HELLO!, something just as equally awesome has replaced them – Fiddleheads!

A ‘whatsit now‘, you ask?  A Fiddlehead is a fern so young and new that it hasn’t yet “unfurled” and opened its leaves.  The end is still curled up in a tight spiral, ready to unroll as the sun warms it and it gathers strength and size.  This spiral shape reminds most people of the end of a violin, hence the name “Fiddlehead.”

“Can you play us some Chopin?”

Early Spring – however late this year – signals the arrival of “Fiddlehead season,” when aficionados begin combing the riverbanks and forest floor.  Why?  Because Fiddlehead ferns are super fucking delicious with a remarkably wild flavor – that’s why.  They can be easily prepared in a variety of ways – resulting in a delicious side dish or as the “main event.”  Flavor? It has been described as similar to green beans with a hint of artichoke; but I don’t feel these descriptions really begin to capture the true essence of their flavor which is unique to say the least.

The coiled end of the fern is called a “crosier.”  Ferns should be picked early in the morning when they are still very young and fresh. The “crosier” should be tightly curled, and should snap off crisply.  They must be washed carefully and rubbed to remove the paper-y brown skin on the outside (avoid yellow or “floppy” ferns).  Trim the base leaving a tiny tail.  Just make sure you exercise caution if you decide to harvest Fiddleheads yourself as there are many varieties of ferns, and only the Ostrich Fern is recommended for consumption; certainly not those ones beginning to poke through your back patio floorboards.

“Mmmm…anti-oxidants.”

So why eat something that you might otherwise find growing on grandma’s mantelpiece?  Well, the nutritional value of Fiddleheads is freaking ridiculous!  For starters, they do produce some fiber, but overall, they’re a wonderful rich source of essential minerals and vitamins (particularly Vitamins A and C) which are essential to the body’s health and maintenance.  Fiddlehead’s also contain antioxidants that will help protect the body from illness and disease – and that’s always good when you train year round in the rain, sleet and snow – believe me – so I’ll take all the antioxidants I can get!  Including servings of these incredibly powerful plants into your daily diet can have some amazing effects to boot.  They can boost your immune system, protect you from disease, reduce your chance of cancer and lower your blood pressure.  It is interesting to remember though that over-consumption of Fiddleheads may also lead to other health problems, such as a vitamin B deficiency.  Weird, I agree, but hardly reason enough to snub these curly little beauties.

So in the meantime, I plan on taking full advantage the next few weeks of these little wonder plants.  They certainly don’t last very long in the supermarket as their season is about as fleeting as Charlie Sheen’s stand-up comedy career.  They’re pretty versatile in the kitchen recipe-wise and easy to work with providing you wash them REALLY well but, personally, I think simple is definitely better when it applies to Fiddleheads.

Fiddlehead Saute

1 lb. (454 g) fiddleheads, cleaned
¼ cup (60 ml) clarified butter (see recipe below)
½ cup (125 ml) onion, finely minced
1 tbsp. (15 ml) garlic, minced
1 tbsp. (15 ml) lemon juice
1 tbsp. (15 ml) white sugar
1 tsp. (5 ml) paprika
Salt and pepper to taste

In a stainless steel (or cast iron) frying pan, heat butter over medium high heat.  Fry onion and garlic for 2 minutes.  Add fiddleheads and stir well.  Sprinkle with salt, pepper, lemon juice, sugar and paprika, while stirring constantly.  Sauté until fiddleheads are tender for about 3 to 5 minutes.

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Comments
  1. Carolyn H. says:

    If I see some fiddleheads I’ll try this out.

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