What’s brilliant dark green, comes in a beautiful shape, and is chock-full of nutrients? It’s the Canadian fiddlehead from the Ostrich fern. Fiddleheads are the curled, edible shoots before they unfurl. They get their name from their shape – a fiddle head!
Loaded with vitamin A and C, and high in potassium, these seasonal delicacies are a nutritional powerhouse, rich in antioxidants and a great source of fibre and omega-3 fatty acids.
Ostrich ferns are in their coiled form for only about 2 weeks (in May in eastern Canada). Grown new in flood plains, rivers and streams, fiddleheads are most abundant in New Brunswick, southern Quebec and southern Ontario. During the rest of the year, you can buy them frozen at specialty food stores.
Fun Fiddlehead Facts
- All ferns have fiddleheads, but in North America, the only ones safe to eat are from the Ostrich fern (a fern considered non-toxic).
- Fiddleheads have been a staple spring vegetable in the Maritimes for hundreds of years. The earliest people known to consume the plants were the Malecite and Mi’kmaq tribes of southeastern Canada
- Fiddleheads continue to grow in popularity. There are now commercial fiddlehead farms popping up in Ontario, Quebec and the Maritimes, with sales in the millions of dollars.
- Mother’s Day is the traditional time for fiddlehead picking!
Cooking with Fiddleheads
- These spring delights have a similar flavour to asparagus, and goes well in soups, salads and pastas.
- Fiddleheads do need to be stored, prepared and cooked properly. Health experts advise it is not good to eat them raw. Cook before sautéing, frying, baking, and follow cleaning guidelines (issued by Health Canada).
- Cook fiddleheads in a generous amount of boiling water for 15 minutes or steam them for 10 to 12 minutes until tender. Discard the water used for boiling or steaming the fiddleheads.
- Using your fingers, remove as much of the brown papery husk on the fiddlehead as possible.
- Wash the fiddleheads in several changes of fresh, cold water to remove any residual husk or dirt.
Fresh Fiddlehead Potato Salad
- 3 lbs (1.3 kg) fingerling potatoes
- 1 cup (250 mL) fresh fiddleheads
- 2 tbsp. (30 mL) capers (optional)
- 2 tbsp. (30 mL) mayonnaise
- 2 tbsp. (30 mL) sour cream
- 2 tbsp. (30 mL) grainy mustard
- 1 tbsp. (15 mL) dill, chopped
- 1 tbsp. (15 mL) parsley, chopped
- 1 tbsp. (15 mL) rice vinegar
- 1 tbsp. (15 mL) dill pickle, chopped
- 2 tsp. (10 mL) salt
- Fresh black pepper
- Slice the potatoes and boil in lightly salted water until soft, about 12-15 minutes. Drain and cool in the fridge.
- Cook the fiddleheads according to listed instructions.
- Add the mayonnaise, sour cream, mustard, herbs, vinegar, pickle, salt and pepper into a mixing bowl. Toss lightly.
- Add chilled potatoes to the bowl of dressing and adjust seasoning.
Goes well with grilled salmon.