Ah, fiddleheads. Boy, do they bring me back to my childhood! Growing up in Northern Maine gave me major moose and potato overexposure, but it also opened my eyes to this once a year yumminess. My mother, aunt and I used to comb the steep banks of a little shaded brook each spring to fill a shopping bag for our own use. We were not fiddlehead foragers for money, as are many people. Cultivating fiddleheads is problematic so most often (maybe always), the fids you find in the store or in a jar were picked by foragers. I believe there is only one company in the U.S. (WS Wells & Sons cannery in Wilton, ME) that cans these delicious ferns.
Fiddleheads are baby Ostrich ferns that are still coiled. In my opinion, their flavor is reminiscent of asparagus with a hint of earthy mushrooms. They may appear in your local supermarket in late April and May, and run between $3.99 to $8.99/lb b/c they are so hard to find. You’ll notice that they have brown scales (paper-like covering) throughout the coil…no worries, follow the recipe below and you’ll be all set!
(Note: the picture above is of still-raw fiddleheads.)
Trim the stalk side of the fiddlehead to remove any hardened, browned edge. Soak them in water for a few minutes and rinse to remove some scales. Blanch the fids for a minute or 2 and drain. You’ll notice more scales coming off. Boil them again for another 10-15 minutes, drain and serve warm with butter, salt and pepper, yum!!! You can always sautee them up with pasta or whatever, just make sure they are cooked through by boiling first as there may be unknown toxins the are active when raw.
From TheHeartofNewEngland.com (see link below):
...the Center for Disease Control has found a number of outbreaks of food-borne illness associated with fiddleheads (nothing is simple, right?) But the outbreaks occurred when the ferns were eaten raw or lightly cooked (as in sautéed, parboiled or micro-waved). So…cook your fiddlehead thoroughly before eating them…boil them for at least 10 minutes. After than, you can eat them right away, or freeze or pickle them.
Delicious AND dangerous! We had our fiddleheads, prepared as described above, with our Shepherd's pie. They are so wonderfully tender and flavorful and a real rite of spring in New England - take advantage while they are available during these first months of spring and summer!
More Fiddlehead Information
Heart of New England Fiddlehead Info and Two Recipes
Maine Fiddlehead Recipes