Sunday, April 20, 2008

Fiddleheads--> a sign of Spring

Hi to all, Just had to drop a bit on the Fiddleheads. I love them.. They are so cool. This time every year I search for them, and its like a treasure hunt. Then one day there they are pushing their fiddle heads up from the earth seeking the warmth from the sunlight of spring time.


Fiddleheads are the young coiled fern leaves (about an inch in diameter) of the ostrich fern (Matteuccia struthiopteris). Nearly all ferns have fiddleheads, but those of the ostrich fern are unlike any other.

Common Name, Comes from the resemblance of the fronds to the plumes of the large flightless bird of Africa.

Other common names include Fiddlehead Fern, Garden Fern, Hardy Fern, Fougère-à-l'autruche (Qué), Strutbräken, Foderbräken (Swe), Strutsveng (Nor), Strudsvinge (Dan), Kotkansiipi (Fin), Straußfarn (Ger), Matteuccia (It), Struccpáfrány (Hun), Pióropusznik strusi (Pol)

(Hope I spelled these right?)

Fiddleheads are a delicacy that appears in the early spring. Harvest the tender little rolls of fern almost as soon as they appear within an inch or two of the ground. Carefully brush out and remove the brown scales. Wash and cook the “heads” in a small amount of lightly salted boiling water for ten minutes, or steam for 20 minutes. Serve at once with melted butter. The quicker they are eaten, the more delicate their flavor. They may be served, like asparagus, on toast. Cooked, chilled fiddleheads can be also served as a salad with an onion and vinegar dressing
They are available for just a few weeks in April & May, (Depends on where you live & this fern is common in the Northern United States)
If see some growing in the woods near you, take care. There are many other ferns that resemble the Ostrich Fern, some of which are considered to be carcinogenic, like the Bracken Fern. There are other edible Fern, but you MUST know how to positively identify them.

Their flavor is mild, and perhaps most closely resembles asparagus, and asparagus is the best substitute for the ferns. Some also say they are similar to green beans and artichokes. They are pleasantly crunchy with a nutty, slightly bitter bite, which is why you’ll see so many fiddlehead recipes calling for butter and salt. Treat the fiddle heads like asparagus tips and you can’t go wrong. If you really want a treat, serve them up with some morel mushrooms( I pick these too!!); their season coincides almost exactly with the ferns and they pair well.
Due to the short season for fiddleheads, some people like to preserve them to be used later. To freeze fiddleheads, prepare them as you would for the table. Blanch a small amount at a time for two minutes. Cool and drain. Pack into moisture- and vapor-proof containers and store them in the freezer.

**The Center for Disease Control (CDC) has investigated a number of outbreaks of food-borne illness associated with fiddleheads. The implicated ferns were eaten either raw or lightly cooked (sautéed, parboiled or microwaved), which was what caused a food-borne illness outbreak in British Columbia in 1990. Although a toxin has not been identified in the fiddleheads of the ostrich fern, the findings of this investigation suggest that you should cook fiddleheads thoroughly before eating (boil them for at least 10 minutes) . **

*Referance Source;University of Maine Cooperative ExtensionBulletin #4198

Fiddlehead Dijon

1-1/2 pounds fresh fiddleheads
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 cup nonfat buttermilk
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
3/4 teaspoon lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon dried tarragon
1/4 teaspoon pepper

Clean and prepare fiddleheads. Remove scales and wash thoroughly. Place fiddleheads in a vegetable steamer over boiling water. Cover and steam 20 minutes or until tender, but still crisp. Set aside, and keep warm.
Combine cornstarch and buttermilk in a small saucepan; stir well. Cook over medium heat until thickened and bubbly, stirring constantly. Remove from heat; stir in mustard, lemon juice, tarragon and pepper.
Arrange fiddleheads on a serving platter. Spoon sauce over fiddleheads. Serve immediately. Makes 6 servings.