Care of Amy Symington
Contrary to popular belief, fiddleheads are not alien larva spawn from a furry green monster. They are native to Ontario, British Columbia and Quebec and are the leaves of a delicious young fern that resemble the curled end of a fiddle. If allowed to mature they would unfurl into long beautiful fronds. They have a short, but sweet season here in Canada, usually starting in April or early May and ending approximately three weeks later. They are deemed to be uniquely and traditionally Canadian and have been enjoyed as a delicacy for generations.
There are many types of ferns that fiddleheads can be harvested from, however some have been found to be more nutritious than others. Recently, ostrich fern fiddleheads were found to contain high levels of omega-3 fatty acids, which have been linked to lowering the risk of cardiovascular disease as well as lowering LDL cholesterol levels. They’ve also been found to contain twice the amount of antioxidants than the widely acclaimed, antioxidant rich blueberry. The ostrich variety in particular is the leafy goodness you will want to get your hands on. Generally speaking though, fiddleheads harvested from most ferns are found to be a good source of fibre and are rich in iron as well as vitamins A and C.
However, some ferns can be potentially hazardous to your health if the correct variety is not harvested (i.e. cinnamon or bracken ferns) or if they are not prepared properly. Fiddleheads must be cooked before consumption. Boiled, steamed, baked or broiled, whatever tickles your fancy, but they should never be eaten raw. With that said, when they are prepared properly you are in for a culinary treat! They have a similar taste to spinach, but have also been described in terms of flavour as being a cross between asparagus and broccoli. This flavour profile of course lends itself to infinite recipe possibilities like cream of fiddlehead soup, lemony garlic fiddleheads and cumin roasted fiddleheads.
So hurry up and add fiddleheads to that laundry list of leafy greens to try this month before the season has once again passed!