Finally! After years of missing the short two week window that fiddleheads remain curled in the lovely (and tasty) shape that they are named for I finally caught them tentatively rising above the earth!
I have loved these deep green coils since I first tasted them in vegetable soba noodle dishes served in the Japanese mountains in springtime. Despite growing up frolicking in fern patches as a child, I had no idea that people ever ate them. My small town ancestors were suspicious of their safety. Which it turns out has some validity since they do need to be a specific kind of fern (the ostrich fern), and even then have to be boiled for 15 minutes, or steamed for 10-12 minutes before they are safe to eat. Having no internet to consult I guess Nana wisely chose to err on the side of caution.
If you plan to go foraging remember that only fiddleheads from the ostrich fern is edible. Do your research or consult an experienced forager before picking your own. Fortunately you can also find them in season in your local supermarket.
According to Health Canada ostrich fern fiddleheads contain vitamin C, omega-3, and omega-6 fatty acids, making them a great way to boost your nutrition in the Spring with a locally sourced ingredient.
Ensure you clean as much of the brown scales off them as you can, and rinse in cool water a number of times before following the cooking guidelines above. Wash your hands after handling them as well. Cool them under running water after boiling/steaming. You can freeze them once they are cooked properly for up to a year.
Once they have been cooked add them to anything that works with veggies. Some compare their flavour to asparagus. I have so far added them to quiche, omlettes, sansai soba noodle soup, and the spicy Korean veggie dish known as bi bim bap (mixed veggies and rice). I have not done so yet but plan to add them to pasta sauce. You can also saute them as you would any other vegetable, and eat as a side dish.
The mid to late Spring opening time of the ostrich fern varies a little depending on your climate. I am writing this at the end of May in far eastern Canada. Keep your eye out at your local supermarket as they may source ostrich fern fiddleheads locally when in season.