Fiddleheads: A Fleeting Delicacy

Trim off any brown ends and papery bits before blanching.

Trim off any brown ends and papery bits before blanching.

We are able to enjoy fiddlehead ferns for a few short weeks in spring.  These are the tender new shoots of the Ostrich Fern (Pteretis pensylvanica) popularly known as fiddleheads because they resemble the curl at the top of a violin.  They make a vitamin-laden, delicious side dish when properly prepared.  Many local stores carry them at this time of year, but you can harvest them yourself.  It’s important to pick the right ferns as some (Bracken) have been found to be carcinogenic.  The Ostrich Fern doesn’t have the furry covering that some other ferns have, making trimming them very easy.  The University of Maine has a good bulletin about fiddleheads.  They should be blanched before preparation as there are some reports of food borne illness from under-cooked ones (although we never did that when I was growing up and WE were never sick!)  The University of Maine recommends 15 minites (!) but I only do it for 7 minutes.  My mother used to cook them in milk but I prefer them sauteed in garlic and olive oil.  Yum!

Ready to eat.  Be sure not to cook them so long that the fresh green color is gone.

Ready to eat. Be sure not to cook them so long that the fresh green color is gone.

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