Fiddle-dee-dee! A Fiddlehead Frolic – Part One

Spring is in the air, which means fiddleheads are on my plate!

This past week, the EAC office kitchen fridge was bursting with stacks of fresh fiddleheads, wild-harvested by our Wilderness co-ordinator, Raymond Plourde, and generously shared with staff.  Fiddleheads are a well-loved delicacy in these parts – and my own upbringing  on the dry prairie means that they’re an extravagantly exotic treat for me.  Not only are they delicious, but they’re super nutritious – in addition to being high in fibre, they are rich in iron, potassium, niacin, riboflavin, magnesium, zinc, phosphorus and vitamins A and C. Researchers at the Agriculture Canada Research Station in Kentville, NS, have also just discovered that fiddleheads contain twice the antioxidants of blueberries and, remarkably, omega-3 fatty acids that are normally found only in fish.(Info from Ray Plourde).

Anyway, I felt I had an obligation and a duty to avail myself with as many free fiddleheads as I could (without appearing gluttonous) to provide all of you, the Local Foodie Public, with wonderful ideas for enjoying this local and seasonal treat!   Selfless, I know.  Because I’m a pickling nerd, I attempted a bunch of pickling recipes to preserve these nuggets of springtime, and I’ll share the results of those experiments next week.

However, the best way to enjoy these treats is the simplest:  Simply steam or boil for 10 or 15 minutes to get rid of bitter tannins and any traces of food-borne illness.  Then toss with butter and maybe a splash of vinegar, and you’re set!

If you want to get a bit more fancy, start with the same steaming/boiling process and then toss them into any stirfry or pasta dish where you’d use asparagus.  (Note that fiddleheads will turn the boiling water a dark reddish brown, so it’s a good idea to pre-steam or boil before adding them to your recipes.  Pureed soups may not look very pretty!)  My own favourite way to eat them has been to fry up a bit of pancetta with a bit of garlic and toss them in along with some red or yellow peppers or oven-roasted tomatoes.  Yum!

For more info on foraging for fiddleheads, nutritional info,  and a few more great recipes, check out Raymond Plourde’s fiddlehead article in Saltscapes from last spring. It’s a great read!

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