What are fiddleheads?
They are a fern, recently sprouted, so young and new that it hasn't opened it leaves yet or "unfurled", aptly named as they resemble the coiled end of a violin.
Fiddlehead ferns are delicious when picked and cooked during their very short season, a few weeks in early spring. The have a remarkable "wild" flavour some say is similar to green beans with a hint of artichoke. This description fails to convey the flavour of this delicious plant.
If you are not an expert, I would not recommend trying to pick them yourselves as not all varieties of ferns are edible, but rather head to your local farmer's market (or to most Loblaws, Metro and No Frills in Southern Ontario). Apparently, Ostrich ferns are recommended for consumption. If you do try and pick them, try to pick no more than three fiddleheads per plant. The plant grows seven fronds and if you pick more than three, you might risk killing the plant.
Further, food poisoning can result from eating raw or undercooked fiddleheads.
Before cooking, wash carefully to remove the papery brown skin on the outside. Avoid yellow or "floppy" ferns, trim the base leaving the tail. Then Boil or cook appropriately.
Here are sites with some interesting recipes:
New Brunswick fiddlehead recipes
More Fiddlehead recipes
Fettucdini with Fiddleheads and Bocconcini
Fiddlehead recipes from fiddlehead.ca
Here are some sites for information on how to grow them:
How to grow fiddleheads
Grow fiddlehead ferns
I was introduced to this delicacy by the husband, born in Eastern Canada, of a cousin of mine. Though I have never attempted to grow (for consumption) or cook them, on the occasions that I have been lucky enough to try them, I have been impressed with their unique flavour and texture. If you are timid, like me, to consider trying to cook them yourself, look for a fiddlehead dish at a local restaurant that specializes in fresh seasonal dishes.
Chris Smith CSSBB
Chay Realty Inc., Brokerage