Fiddleheads or fiddlehead greens are the curled fronds of a young fern, harvested for use as a vegetable. They get their odd sounding name due to resembling the scrolled top of a violin. The Spring season is fast approaching, and fiddleheads will start to appear in April. Seeing a fiddlehead pop up from the ground means the Winter season has finally come to a close. Most fiddleheads aren’t cultivated—rather, they are foraged in forested areas, however you can start seeing them in Farmers Markets and Local Root market sites. The flavor can sometimes be compared to asparagus and can be pleasantly chewy. They are a good source of vitamins A and C, Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids, and are high in iron and fiber. Fiddleheads are also rich in vitamin K, which is important to note for people taking blood thinners. Fiddleheads grow in a small area of the northeastern United States, but they also grow in several other countries. You can find fiddleheads in soups in Japan, in bibimbap, in an Indonesian dish called gulai pakis, in Thailand, and in India as well.
Local Roots member, Christine S., offers some advice on how to cook fiddleheads. Her dad grew up in Maine, where fiddleheads are super popular in the Spring. Her uncles have been known to forage for their own, in addition to buying them from local vendors and she’s been eating them her whole life and prefers simple preparations, since they showcase the delicate flavor more.
Here’s how Christine makes them:
1. Peel the paper-like skin (if applicable) then wash them thoroughly. They can be a bit gritty, so fill a bowl with cold water and swish vigorously.
2. In a steamer basket (any kind will do) steam fiddleheads until ‘al dente’ (cooked but still a bit firm—when in doubt leave them on the firmer side).
3. Melt a healthy amount of butter (about 1 tbsp per pint basket of fiddleheads) in a skillet over medium heat, add fiddleheads and cook 1 to 2 minutes stirring occasionally.
4. Season with salt (the flakier the better) and freshly ground black pepper.
If you need to store them, wrap fiddleheads lightly in plastic wrap and keep chilled. You can freeze them for longevity, but once in the fridge, they do not keep very long.
We hope you’ll get to enjoy this magical ingredient this Spring season! If you do, let us know: send us an email at email@example.com, or tag us in a photo @localrootsnyc #madewithlocalroots on social media.
Article by blog contributor, Jenny Weinstein
Photo courtesy of marxfood.com