One true sign of spring is when the fronds of the ostrich fern show their heads. Appropriately called a fiddlehead (the spiral shape resembles the head of a fiddle), this green vegetable is a nutritional wonder.
Andrea Mlinarevic from Norcliff Farms says it perfectly: “Fiddleheads grow so quickly that they must be picked the day after they sprout; otherwise they will blossom into beautiful ferns. Fiddleheads grow wild across Canada, but most abundantly along the east coast. These little gems are so vigorous, especially after a warm rain in May, that they can grow up to six inches overnight.”
Foragers hunt them for such a short season because the moment the plant matures and the fronds unfurl, they become tough and less edible. If you want to pick fiddleheads from the wild, take a foraging course with an experienced plant expert because other ferns can be poisonous.
If hunting in the forest for your food is not in your future, you can enjoy fresh or frozen fiddleheads in many stores across Canada, or preserved fiddleheads. When you buy them at the market, look for bright green specimens that are tightly packed and have no brown spots. They can keep for up to two weeks in the fridge. With fiddlehead season only lasting from the end of April to mid-June, these spring veggies fly off the shelf almost as fast as they grow. Good thing too, as they are a good source of vitamins A and C and fibre.
Five Facts About Fiddleheads
1. Fiddleheads are a good vegetarian source of omega 3 fatty acids: A diet high in omega 3 fatty acids has been shown to improve memory, improve cholesterol and even aid in fat loss. Recent studies are also investigating the importance of omega 3 fatty acids in preventing the onset of early type-2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome, with promising results. (1)
2. Fiddleheads are the ultimate antioxidant food: Fiddleheads have been shown to have up to twice the antioxidant capacity of blueberries! These antioxidants have the ability to boost levels of glutathione (a powerful antioxidant) and ramp up your body’s innate immune system by bolstering its own natural defences and warding off invading pathogens. (2)
3. Fiddleheads are anti-inflammatory: The combination of powerful antioxidants paired with the heavy dose of omega 3 fats helps to modulate the body’s inflammation pathway. These two benefits of fiddleheads also work together to prevent our immune system from attacking cells that are our own, as in autoimmune diseases. (3)
4. Fiddleheads are a great source of weight-balancing fibre: Half of a cup of fiddleheads contain 7g of dietary fibre. (4) The fibre in fiddleheads is great for anyone suffering from Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) because they have to be well cooked before eating. This makes fiddleheads soothing and easily digested with no discomfort, while healing the digestive tract. (5)
5. Fiddleheads can help prevent cardiovascular disease: Fiddleheads contain over 30 percent of your daily requirement of niacin. Niacin raises HDL cholesterol and assists in lowering LDL cholesterol to prevent arterial build up and improve circulation. (6)
Norcliff Farm’s instructions on “How to freeze fiddleheads.”
Great for soups, quiche, pesto, spreads and dips.
Step 1: Clean fiddleheads. Trim the ends off each fiddlehead. Place fiddleheads in a colander. Submerge colander in a bowl of water and remove any pieces of dirt by hand. (This may need to be done more than once.) Lift the colander and drain the water from the fiddleheads.
Step 2: To Freeze, bring water to a full boil on the stove.
Step 3: Blanch fresh fiddleheads for 2 mins, making sure they are fully immersed in the boiling water. *** Note*** any part of the fiddlehead that is not immersed will turn black in color.
Step 4: After 2 mins of blanching drain the fiddleheads and immerse in very cold water. This will stop the cooking of fiddleheads. Drain.
Step 5: Add your desired amount of fiddleheads into a freezer bag. Add water to cover the fiddleheads to avoid freezer burn. Place into freezer.
By following these instructions you will have frozen Fiddleheads in the freezer for years. Please visit the website www.norcliff.com for more recipes or google fiddlehead recipes.
To learn more about what Julie has to offer, purchase her bestselling books and online program at the links below.