Do you like fiddleheads? I sure do. Fiddleheads are the curled, edible shoots of the ostrich fern. Or, as Wikipedia notes: the furled fronds of a young fern. (Say that five times fast.) They are harvested when they are just a few inches off the ground. I love finding them in the grocery store each spring – just as I have forgotten all about them, poof! There they are again. It’s like finding the first batch of Ganong Chicken Bones or Robertson’s Ribbon Candy on the shelves at Christmastime.
Now, you shouldn’t eat these little babies raw. They can kill you or something. Okay, I’m not sure about the killing thing, but I guess you run the risk of spending a lot of time in the bathroom. Thus, you should cook them well. I guess they aren’t completely sure why these suckers can make you sick, but it does happen on occasion. Don’t let that deter you though – boiling them up in a nice pot of water will make ’em safe to eat.
When I bring my fiddleheads home, I trim their stems and remove any brown husky bits or scales as well. (See that there picture below? That’s the before. Long stems, woody bits and all. Up above? Those are the cooked and seasoned fiddleheads. I ate them immediately after taking that picture.) I wash my fiddleheads in a cold bowl of water, changing the water several times to make sure they are good and clean. Lots of rinsing, lots of looking terribly busy in the kitchen. Then, I boil them in a pot of water for 15 minutes. You should boil them this way even if you plan to sauté or fry them, or incorporate them into some other sort of dish. (Or run the risk of death and/or stomach cramps and/or bathroom “difficulties.”)
Once cooked, I always eat them the same way: a generous coating of butter, some fresh lemon juice and a little pepper. Oh, and since they aren’t a favourite of 2.0’s: alone, and with my fingers.
Disclaimer: if you kill yourselves eating ferns you found in yer yard or “out back,” it ain’t my fault. Use yer heads, people!