Fiddleheads are the young shoots of the Ostrich Fern, (Matteuccia struthiopteris). They are versatile and easy to use and have a mild taste reminiscent of asparagus, green beans or artichokes, but with an added nutty bite all their own.
Although the word "fiddlehead" could refer to any fern shoots, only one variety, the ostrich fern, is considered edible.
Fiddleheads are a rich, deep green color and are about 2 inches long and 1-1/2 inches in diameter. Their flavor is similar to a blend of asparagus, greenbean and artichoke.
They grow throughout the eastern half of the United States and in Canada. Maine is noted for its fine fiddleheads.
Nutrition Notes: Fiddleheads are low in calories and virtually fat-free. They are a good source of potassium and also contain vitamin C, niacin and iron.
Storing: Tightly wrap in a plastic bag and refrigerate. Refrigerating the fiddleheads will slow them from ripening further and uncurling in the process.
Cleaning: Rub off the dry brown coat that some fiddleheads have, then wash the greens thoroughly and rinse in lots of cool fresh water. Remove tough ends of stems.
In a vegetable/rice steamer or in a steamer set over boiling water, steam fiddleheads just until tender, about 8 minutes. Or cook uncovered in a large amount of boiling salted water for 5 to 7 minutes or until stalks are bright green and tender crisp. Be careful not to overcook as they will become mushy and lose much of their color, taste, texture and nutrients.
In a saucepan, lightly sauté fiddleheads in a small amount of olive oil or butter until tender-crisp, about 5 minutes.
Fiddleheads can be frozen if blanched for 2 to 3 minutes beforehand. Plunge into cold water immediately after blanching and dry them thoroughly before freezing. Blanched fiddleheads will keep for up to 9 months in the freezer.
Do not thaw frozen fiddleheads. Simply boil or steam them for 6 to 10 minutes or just until tender crisp.
Fiddleheads will lend their delicious flavor and elegant visual appeal to many familiar dishes. Use them as a perfect featured vegetable, hot or cold. They are excellent when marinated, sautéed, baked or in soups, salads and stir-fries.
Important! Fiddleheads should be boiled prior to sautéing, frying or baking. Do not eat raw! Fiddleheads may contain natural substances that can cause gastric distress if not cooked properly. To be on the safe side, only eat cooked fiddleheads. When they're properly cooked, any toxins that may be present are destroyed.
Basic Preparation: Gently simmer in boiling water for 6 to 8 minutes, or until barely tender. Don't be surprised if the cooking water turns brown; this is perfectly normal. Drain immediately and quickly plunge into cold water to retain their crunchy texture and bright green color. Do not overcook!
Your fiddleheads are now ready to use in any number of preparations!
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