Fiddle Heads- Its Not Just a Fun Word!

fern-leaf-roll-nature-66319.jpegOne thing that really excites me about spring time is foraging for fiddle heads. They are fun to find, easy to identify and when the temperature gets to be just warm enough that I don’t need to bundle the kids head to toe in coats and hats, its fun for the whole family!

You might have seen these funny little swirly things at your local farmers market or at a health food store but just didn’t know how to cook them or why you should cook them. So, I am going to share a little bit about one of my favorite spring time treats!

Fiddle heads are the young tender little fronds of the Ostrich Fern.  When left intact, they uncurl and become the leaves (or fronds).  They  grow in the United States, Canada, Europe and Asia.  The best (and really only) time to pick these fun little guys are in early spring.

Picking fiddle heads does not require any special tool or technique.  Use a sharp knife or just snap the frond with your finger.  I prefer to use a knife to make a clean cut, like this one.  Make sure that you know exactly what you are harvesting- some fiddle heads are not edible!  If you are not 100% on what you are foraging for, don’t eat it!  They should vibrant green in color and the frond should be a tight coil. The frond will have a brown papery skin on the outside- this will be removed later on.

*Very important: do not cut every single frond on a single plant.  Leave at least  2 or 3 frond so that the plant can live.  Harvest ethically and be sustainable. After you taste these fiddle heads, you are going to want to visit that spot year after year, so make sure you take care to not damage the plants.

Once I have a nice basket full of fiddle heads, I give them a quick wash and put them into a bowl of cold, salted water and leave them soak for about an hour.  I have found that this helps remove the papery skin on the fiddle head and will add flavor when cooking.  Fiddle heads must be cooked! This is very important.  They contain a small amount of toxins that are only removed when cooked.  Besides, they don’t taste very good raw…trust me.

When you are ready to cook them, remove as much of the brown skin as you can.  Toss them into a pot of boiling or almost boiling water and blanch them for about 5 minutes.  Remove and drain.  Now you can add them to stir fry, quiche, or my favorite- sauteed with garlic and butter.  YUM!

They are also SUPER good for you!  They are high in vitamin A and vitamin C, high in fiber and rich in potassium, iron, antioxidants and even omega-3’s!

I can guarantee that you will love these little mouthfuls of spring.

Happy foraging!

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