Wild ferns favour damp, shady ground. The banks of streams and rivers in local forests are ideal for picking fiddleheads.
The harvesting season for fiddleheads is short. The ideal fiddlehead is still tightly curled, and snapped off to leave an inch or so of stem. Once the fiddlehead starts to uncurl and look like a fern leaf, it also starts to taste like a fern leaf.
Freshly picked fiddleheads often have a coating of flakey brown "skin", similar to onion skin. Vigorous washing is required to remove this chaff, usually with a garden hose.
Fiddleheads are usually boiled or steamed, and served with vinegar and/or butter. They have a delicate flavour which some compare to a cross between spinach and asparagus.
Although some recipes call for raw fiddleheads, i.e. in a salad, a small rash of food poisoning has prompted warnings from
to always thoroughly wash and fully cook/steam your fiddleheads.
Fiddleheads do not keep well, and taste best when consumed within 3-4 days of picking. They keep indefinitely when frozen but lose their crisp texture, and therefore much of their appeal.
The combination of unusual growing conditions, short harvest time and poor shelf life may explain why fiddleheads have not become a popular commercial crop. Some limited commercial harvesting is done, and you can purchase
from Maine, or frozen fiddleheads from
McCain Foods, the frozen food giant based in New Brunswick.
At this point, I will confess that I'm not a huge fiddlehead fan, and
generally drown them in vinegar. However, donning gum rubbers and tramping up and down the local crick was an enjoyable rite of spring in my youth, and I still look forward to the year's first meal with fresh fiddleheads.
Fiddleheads have limited discussion value, unless you
folks have some
This article is intended less as a fiddlehead tutorial and more of a conversation starter. What's your favorite freaky local cuisine?