Talking about Fiddleheads on CTV
One of Nature’s first signs of spring is the bursting forth of tightly curled fern fronds along the banks of rivers and streams where the soil is enriched by the spring runoffs. Canadians are becoming more familiar with the edible ostrich fern (the only fern safe to eat) that derives its name from its appearance because the curved fronds resemble the neck of a fiddle.
The Maliseet Indians of New Brunswick are credited with having discovered fiddleheads and their nutritional value which is very high and would have given early settlers a much needed boost of nutrition after a hard, cold winter. Fiddleheads do grow in all other areas of Canada, and right now, are available in most supermarkets as well as farmers’ markets. If you pick your own, either in your garden or woods, take care to leave about half the leaves in each clump of ferns so that they will continue to produce, and pick heads no higher than six inches.
When you get fiddleheads to the kitchen, keep them cool and use as soon as possible. To clean them, shake off the brown husks left from last year’s ferns in the clump (We actually unfurl each fern to do this.) and wash well in cold water. The ends naturally oxidize after they are picked, so cut off the dark bits of the stem if you like. You can either boil them or steam them; the latter renders an asparagus/broccoli kind of flavour while steaming makes them a bit more bitter, perhaps like spinach. Cook just until tender, 5 to 8 minutes, since overcooking will rob them not only of colour, texture and taste, but also of some of their many nutrients. Fresh fiddleheads are best enhanced only by butter, salt, pepper and a sprinkling of fresh lemon juice or vinegar. Do not overpower their subtle flavour with heavy sauces or stong seasonings. Fiddleheads Vinaigrette which I will make tomorrow on CTV Noon News and which you will find on my Recipe page is one of my favourite ways of enjoying this spring treat.
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