Foodstuff: Fiddlehead Greens

Fiddleheads are nothing new to me, but I suspect that they may be unknown to some of my readers. They grow wild in the Canadian Province of New Brunswick, where I lived for almost twenty-five years before moving North, and I have picked and eaten them more times than I can count…

It is quite easy to see how fiddleheads get their name. The little greens are actually the furled frond of a certain type of fern and the sort I picked are generally found in wooded areas. I always though that fiddleheads were unique to the eastern seaboard of North America but I gather that varieties are found and eaten as far afield as China, Japan, Korea, India and Indonesia.

Although, as I say, I have eaten fiddleheads many times, in truth I was never all that keen on them. Most people where I grew up simply boiled them and then served them with a little butter or, occasionally a little splash of vinegar. I really can’t get excited about any sort of boiled green vegetables at the best of times and it wasn’t until I was older and began experimenting with other ways of cooking them that I discovered how nice fiddleheads can actually be.

The taste is of the cooked greens is somewhat like chard but much more earthy and with definite woody notes. They can be bitter, especially as they get bigger, and for this reason, some people boil them in two changes of water to reduce the bitterness a little.

Blanching green vegetables, as I have mentioned in several posts, is often a good idea. In this case, my wife bought these and, since I had several things I wanted to cook ahead of them, I blanched them so that they would keep a little longer in the fridge. As you can see above, blanching enhances the pretty green color and it will also preserve it, not just while they are stored, but also when they get fully cooked by flash-frying, or other means.

Frying, or braising fiddleheads is a definite improvement over boiling them to my mind and, while surfing different blogs, I happened to come across a nice recipe for green beans that I think may be nicely adapted to this particular vegetable. I will likely play around with the basic idea a little and the results will be posted very shortly…

16 thoughts on “Foodstuff: Fiddlehead Greens”

    1. Depends on the age…. they can be a bit fibrous (even woody) if they are too old but when they are still young and fresh they are a bit like a cross between snap peas and string beans. The ones in the picture were somewhere in the middle…. it’s much better if you can pick them yourself!

  1. fiddleheads are one of those items that show if your area is hip to the latest food trend. we live in an area where fiddleheads finally showed up at trader joe’s this year-years after i first saw them visiting one of my children in new york several years ago. food as sociology is a pretty interesting concept. you’re judged by what you eat in the same way you can be judged by what you wear or what car you drive.

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