Fiddleheads, fiddlehead ferns or fiddlehead greens are wild edibles that come out early spring. The plant is also commercially harvested and has various culinary uses. It has been consumed since the Medieval Age in Northern France and has been a part of Native Americans’ diet for centuries.
Fiddleheads are mainly cooked using either the boiling method or the steaming method. Sautéing and stir-frying are also two alternative ways to cook fiddleheads, but it is still recommended that they be boiled or steamed prior to this.
Taste, storage and uses
Fiddleheads are rather strange, although beautifully-looking vegetables. They have tightly coiled tips or heads that curl to resemble the scroll of a violin. The most common fiddlehead is the uniquely shaped, bright green variety. Other types of edible fiddleheads include:
- Ostrich fiddlehead fern is found in some of the regions in North America and usually in northern regions all over the world.
- Cinnamon fern also called buckhorn fern is found in the eastern regions of North America.
- Royal fern is found worldwide.
- Vegetable fern is commonly found in Oceania and Asia.
Fiddleheads taste similar to asparagus. Their flavor is not as strong, however, but more mild and comes out grassy with a bit of nuttiness and a hint of pleasant bitterness. Because fiddleheads are delicate food, they are usually eaten immediately after harvest, but can also be stored in the refrigerator, preferably wrapped in plastic wrap.
If kept chilled, they are good to eat for as long as two weeks. Fiddleheads should be rinsed under cold water several times before using to remove dirt and grit. They can be preserved for later use using the freezing method or canned to make pickle fiddleheads.
A fast and easy way to cook fiddleheads is to boil them for approximately 3 minutes, and then serve with lemon and butter. They can, however, be eaten in a variety of ways. Fiddleheads pair nicely with eggs, mushrooms and can be cooked with duck and pasta, shrimp and cheese.
Recipe suggestions: shrimp and fiddlehead medley; fiddlehead omelet; sweet pickle fiddleheads; fiddleheads and cavatelli with duck confit; fiddlehead Dijon; quick sour fiddlehead pickles; cream of fiddlehead soup.
Fiddlehead nutrient composition
As with most vegetables, fiddleheads contain a lot of water and are high in fiber and low in calories. They are 87 percent water, contain 1.12 percent fiber and provide rich amounts of vitamins A and C.
Fiddleheads contain 17 minerals including magnesium, iron, niacin, zinc, phosphorus and potassium, but most amazing and unique about this vegetable is the fatty acid and antioxidant composition, fiddleheads containing omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, making them ideal food for preventing heart disease and maintaining good cholesterol levels in the body.
Fiddlehead ferns are ideal to consume in a low-sodium diet, preferably fresh when the vegetable retains most of its nutrient composition.
It is strongly advised never to consume raw fiddleheads as some varieties are known to be carcinogenic and toxic when not thoroughly cooked.