|Fresh Fiddlehead Fern Greens|
In selecting fiddleheads look for a tight coil and only an inch or two of stem beyond the coil. There is a brown papery chaff that surrounds the fiddlehead on the plant. Much of this will have been removed prior to purchase, but some may remain. (See below for ways to remove Fiddlehead chaff.)
The outside of the coil should have an intricate pattern of tiny leaves arranged along the sides of the spiral. Size of the coil should be 1 to 1.5 inches in diameter. Larger size is acceptable as long as they are tightly coiled. Common bracken and other ferns also produce tightly coiled new growth in the Spring but none of these are suitable for eating.
Good fiddleheads should have a distinctly crisp texture, both raw and after brief cooking.
Handling Fresh Fiddleheads
If more than 2 inches of stem remains attached beyond the coiled part of the fiddlehead snap or cut it off. If any of the paper chaff remains on the fiddleheads you may rub it off by hand. Since the chaff is very light, you may want to clean off the chaff outdoors by fanning them or lightly shaking them in an open wire salad basket.
After the chaff is removed wash the fiddleheads in several changes of cold water to remove any dirt or grit. Drain the fiddleheads completely. Use them fresh, and soon after harvest.
If you must store fresh Fiddleheads keep well cooled (35 F) and tightly wrapped to prevent drying out. If you have stored them, you may wish to trim the stem again just before use since the cut end will darken in storage. They may be kept in refrigeration for about 10 days, although flavor will be best if used as soon as possible after harvest.
Fiddlehead ferns are a good source of vitamins A and C. Fiddleheads should not be served raw as they have a slight bitterness until cooked and may cause stomach upset if eaten raw in quantity. Health Canada advises that fresh fiddleheads must be properly cooked before being consumed.
The flavor of fiddleheads goes well with cheeses, tomato sauce and oriental cuisine. Excellent with Hollandaise sauce.
Fiddleheads are versatile and easy to use. They have a mild taste reminiscent of Asparagus with an added nutty bite all their own.
Fiddleheads are excellent marinated in vinegar and oil or as a crunchy pickle. As a featured vegetable they will please the most demanding palate. Fiddleheads can be used in similar ways to any firm green vegetable such as Asparagus or Broccoli florets.
Fiddleheads will lend their delicious flavor and elegant visual appeal to many familiar dishes. Use them as a perfect featured vegetable in a simple stir-fry.
They are wonderful in pasta dishes with a sauce made from Extra Virgin Olive Oil and Balsamic Vinegar. Sauté, stir-fry or steam briefly to retain their crunchy texture and bright green color. Do not overcook.
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