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Fiddle faddle

Tightwad's search for random and obscure food ingredients continues today with a discussion on fiddleheads. Like, what are they? Fiddleheads are, in fact, the unfurled fronds of a young fern; the fiddlehead unrolls as the fern emerges from the ground with new growth. Fiddleheads are harvested early before the frond has opened and reached full height. They are not cultivated, and therefore available on a seasonal basis - they are a sure sign that spring is on its way. Curious fact that Tightwad stumbled upon: each plant produces seven tops that turn into fronds, but only a maximum of three should be harvested because over-picking will kill the plant. Never eat wild plants unless absolutely certain that they have been identified correctly. Ostrich ferns are the safest for consumption. Other ferns are mildly toxic. Obviously if you are buying fiddleheads as opposed to picking them, they are safe and probably from ostrich ferns. If you see yourself hiking in a lush woodland replete with ferns and fronds sometime in the spring, even if you are sure of your plant ID and know it's an ostrich fern, don't harvest it and figure that you should taste one - fiddleheads should not be eaten raw. So, now you know. Just put on your cute boots, enjoy the outdoors and stash your finds in a nice bag ready for cooking at the end of the day.

Random fiddlehead facts:
- Fiddleheads have been part of traditional diets in much of Northern France since the Middle Ages and in Asia, Australia, New Zealand for centuries.
- Tide Head, New Brunswick bills itself as the fiddlehead capital of the world
- Fiddleheads are considered the gold standard by Agriculture Canada for antioxidants - with twice as much as blueberries; they are also rich in bioflavinoids
- Fiddleheads are packed with nutrient omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins A and C, niacin, potassium, phosphorus, iron and magnesium
- the Ostrich fern produces the best, safest and most popular type of fiddlehead
- Fiddleheads taste similar to asparagus, artichokes and mushrooms with a crunchy, tender-firm texture and earthy, nutty flavour

When cooking fiddleheads remove the papery brown scales and wash them throughly. Then it is recommended that they be boiled twice for a total of ten minutes with a change of water between boilings - changing the water reduces the bitterness and the content of tannins and toxins. Fiddleheads can be steamed; spread them in a thin layer in a steam basket and steam for 20 minutes. Fiddleheads can also be sauteed and roasted.

Tightwad thinks that fiddleheads are just plain pretty. Here are some recipes for you to take a gander at: Earthly Delights fiddlehead and morel stirfry Indonesia Eats North Sumatran fiddleheads with spicy grated coconut The Dog's Breakfast spring vegetable soup Eats Well With Others mac n cheese with rosemary and fiddleheads Healthy Green Kitchen coconut curry with fiddleheads and cilantro chutney Closet Cooking spring shrimp scampi with fiddleheads and ramps

What are ramps? That's on Tightwad's list of new things to find out... stay tuned.


Little Miss Moneybags said...

I had fiddleheads for the first time this spring, and they are DELICIOUS!

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