Fiddleheads

Fiddleheads

Just one more wild edible that I’m unable to partake in.  Melana had the best post about fiddleheads, so here it is, along with a few other recipes from other group members.

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Fiddlehead Fern (Ostrich Fern) – by Melana Hiatt

My first spring in Quebec I went nuts trying to locate a place to collect fiddlehead ferns, (Matteucia struthiopteris) in the wild. The season for these culinary delights lasts only 10 days to three weeks depending on your area and I never did locate any wild fiddleheads to harvest. I instead purchased mine from the local market, but even store bought is better than nothing!

Seems that fiddlehead harvesting areas are hard held secrets along the same lines as favored morel areas or a preferred fishing hole. A bit of information more likely to be handed down in a will left by a rich uncle than discussed with strangers. 🙂

As the summer progressed the idea of finding a place to harvest fiddlehead ferns never left my mind and sure enough, later on I found an island just covered with fiddlehead ferns and red raspberry bushes. Actually, I was glad to find them so late in the year since this made it easy to identify fiddleheads and make sure I wasn’t getting bracken ferns, (Pteridium aquilinum), by mistake.

Identifying fiddlehead ferns is not all that hard if you pay attention. I know I was a bit leery my first time out but once I saw a real fiddlehead in full furl I knew it immediately. Look for smooth, shiny, dark green coils covered in a light tan “onion” skin. Each frond will have a U-shaped channel along the inside and the frond will expand to resemble a feather. Bracken ferns branch, and the new fronds or fiddleheads are covered in a whitish fuzz, are generally a lighter green and don’t have the U-shaped channel. *Many people do eat and enjoy bracken ferns, moderation and caution are the better part of valor in my book though, as bracken ferns are a known carcinogen. With fiddleheads in abundance I see no point in toying with fate.

Harvesting season as I mentioned before is short. So don’t hesitate to get out and keep an eye on your local stand. One day they may be no where near ready and the next growing like crazy. Normally the season falls in April to June depending totally on your area. Here in balmy southern Quebec it hits May 1st. As the fronds start to grow up simply snap the coil off in your hand. No special tools or knives are needed but do collect them in a basket, bucket or other open container. On a hot day any wild edible will begin to decompose rather quickly in a sealed plastic bag.

Once you have collected your fiddleheads you will need to remove all the onion skin. I “winnowed” mine on an old sheet with the help of my husband. We placed all the fiddleheads in the middle then with both of us grasping opposite ends we tossed the fiddleheads gently into the air to remove most of the onion skin. The remainder I washed off in the kitchen sink.

With 15 gallons of fiddleheads to put up I was at a loss as to what to do with them all. Of course we had a big batch for supper that night. Steamed for 10 minutes with carrots and onion and seasoned with garlic butter and the following day I created the soup I will tell you about later on in this article. The remainder I blanched and froze. I have heard of people canning fiddlehead ferns but do not have instructions for doing so. If anyone has the directions please feel free to drop me a line and let me know about it.

Fiddleheads can also be dried in your dehydrator and used at will in soups and stews. I have never dried them myself but was given several from my good friend Richard and they are great. I mixed several of them in a trail mix with B-B-Q spices and love them as a nibble. *you can order dried fiddleheads from Richard if you want to try some out. No commercial interest on my part.

Fiddleheads are great in soups. I love cream soups and whip them up all the time much to the dismay of my hips. Feel free to take this recipe and convert it to a broth soup if you prefer.

Créme de Gazon
(Cream of Lawn) 🙂

With fiddleheads it is easier to wash, chop and steam them until tender before adding them to your soup. I generally have this going in one pot while I work with everything else in my soup pot. Feel free to substitute other wild edibles or domestic veggies to suit your tastes and what you have handy.

  • 2 cups washed, chopped and steamed fiddleheads
  • 1 onion diced
  • 1-2 cloves garlic minced
  • 2 tablespoons butter or margarine
  • 2-3 tablespoons of flour
  • 3 cups milk
  • 2-3 slices of American cheese (optional)
  • 1-2 carrots shredded and set aside
  • garlic powder, parsley, onion powder, dill seed, salt and pepper to taste

In a double boiler steam your fiddleheads for at least ten minutes or until tender. If using other wild greens such as sheep sorrel, lamb’s quarters, amaranth, dandelion greens etc skip steaming them separately and just add them directly to the pan you will make your soup in when you sauté everything. In your soup pot, melt your butter and sauté your onions, garlic or veggies and herb of choice. (Leave the carrots out until later)

When the fiddleheads are ready add them to your sautéed veggies and stir in flour to coat everything very well. Make sure this is all good and hot then dump in your milk all at once. With milk based soups you have to add it all at once or everything will lump up. With broth based soup add your broth or water slowly. Add your herbs and spices of choice as well.

Simmer your mixture until the right consistency is reached. Add cornstarch if you want it thicker or more milk if you prefer it thinner. (It never comes out the same way twice for me.)

Add your cheese and shredded carrot just before serving. Cooking the carrot when you sauté everything makes it get lost in the other veggies and you lose the beautiful color contrast.

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Fiddlehead Ferns in Wine Sauce

Recipes I post from the book I found, Wild Food Plants of Indiana, will not be written as most recipes-will be copying it the way it is in the book.

“We chose young fiddlehead ferns not more than six to eight inches high, breaking them off as low as they remained tender and washing off the wooly hairs. Since wild leeks
were equally abundant, we put fiddleheads and washed leeks in a skillet with heated oil and sautéed them uncovered for 10 minutes, then added just enough water to steam and a
vegetable bouillon cube, and covered them with a lid until they were tender. The vegetables were served over brown rice and topped with sunflower seeds and cheese
cubes.”

“Fiddlehead ferns in wine sauce are delicious served over whole wheat spaghetti. To prepare the sauce, melt 1/3 cup butter in a heavy skillet. Add 1 cup mushrooms and sauté
until soft. over low heat blend in 3 tablespoons flour and cook for 2-4 minutes. Slowly add 2 cups milk and stir with a wooden spoon or wire whisk until the sauce begins to
thicken. Add 1/2 cup red wine and 1 1/2 cups steamed fiddleheads. Continue cooking the sauce until it is creamy and thick. The sauce is equally good served over rice or whole
wheat toast.”

“A note of warning: Although all fiddleheads are edible, they must be young and fresh; the eating of old fiddleheads or the mature ferns has been known to cause poisoning in
livestock.”

Otsatlvnvdlvi (We are all Brothers and Sisters)

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Dave Cass’ Canadian Fiddlehead Salad

Found this recipe on my ww recipe site, submitted by Diane who lives south of Ottowa. Looked too good not to post. Hope some of you who love fiddleheads try it and let us
know how it is!

(All measurements are approximate. Increase or reduce, according to your taste.)

  • 3 cups of fiddleheads
  • Lemon juice for soaking
  • 3 cups of oyster mushrooms
  • 2 Tbs. olive oil
  • 2 Tbs. butter

Dressing:

  • 2 Tbs. rice vinegar
  • 2 Tbs. mushroom soya sauce
  • 1 Tbs. ginger tamari (or some fresh-grated ginger)
  • 1 Tbs. lemon juice (fresh is best)
  • 1 Tbs. toasted sesame seeds
  • 1 tsp. hot or plain sesame oil
  • 2-3 drops of bottled hickory smoke
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Prepare fiddleheads: Remove “parchment” hoods if they have not already been removed. (You may wish to wear plastic gloves, as the parchment can stain fingers.) Soak in cold
water to remove any grit. Cut off tough stem ends and immediately place the heads in a container of cold water, to which you have added some lemon juice to prevent browning.
When all are prepared, drain, cover and microwave on high just long enough to slightly tenderize. The water retained in the coiled fronds should be sufficient for steaming.
They should be bright green, and still crisp in texture. Immediately plunge in cold water to stop cooking, and drain WELL on a towel, gently pressing water out of the coils
with another towel, if necessary.

Prepare mushrooms: Clean the oyster mushrooms and tear the larger ones into strips about 1/2 to one inch wide. Leave the smaller mushrooms whole. Heat the olive oil and butter over medium-high heat, add the mushrooms and cook until browned, tossing constantly with two wooden spoons. Remove from heat and drain on paper towels.

Prepare dressing: Put all of the dressing ingredients in a jar, cover and shake thoroughly to combine.

When the mushrooms have cooled, gently toss them together with the fiddleheads and the dressing. Can be chilled, but most flavourful served at room temperature.

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Basic Fiddlehead Ferns

This is from an email newsletter that I get from an online store called Earthly Delights. I’m just passing these neat recipes onto the group. If you pass them on,
please include where they came from. Thanks,Kiri Sue

This is a delicious and simple way to serve fiddleheads. The recipe calls for only the most basic ingredients, but the flavors are fresh and delicious, enhanced by just a
touch of seasoning.

  • 1 pound fiddlehead ferns
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 2 teaspoon garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon parsley, chopped
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper

To prepare the fiddleheads, rinse them under cold running water and rub the brown chaff away from the coils. Trim all but about 1/8 to 1/2 of the stem away from the coil
itself. Dry the shoots before cooking by spinning them in a salad spinner then patting them with paper towels.

Melt the butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic, parsley, and fiddleheads. Saute for about five minutes, seasoning with salt and pepper to taste. The fiddleheads
should be crunchy but tender.

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2 thoughts on “Fiddleheads

  1. hi…just picked fiddle heads a few days ago in Horsefly, B.C. yes there is a place called Horsefly! was looking at cleaning same and was struck by a scathingly brilliant idea…got my vaccum cleaner and put the dusting (brush) head attachment on it and gently sucked all the onion skin off in 5 minutes…for smaller heads i put i bit of cheese cloth over the end so as not to lose any up the pipe and just removed the skins as necessary from the cloth! Abracadabra…onion skins gone!!! kind regards, nana j

    Like

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