Spring is here and these little beauties start popping everywhere. They are called fiddleheads (or tetes de violon in French which I find very cute). Fiddlehead ferns are part of the fern family plant, usually of ostrich fern and is one of the most common edible fiddle ferns in North America. As a precaution measure be careful if you want to forage fiddleheads yourself as not all species are suitable for human consumption. Bracken fern (Pteridium aquilinum) species may be associated with higher degree of toxic compounds. Several different ferns grow in the woods and they are very similar in appearance. Only expert native harvesters could really tell and identify the safe ones so make sure to confirm with people who know the right kind of ferns before eating them.
Amazing health benefits of fiddlehead ferns
- Fiddlehead ferns are unique in their taste, and nutritional profile. The plant is very low in calories (it delivers 34 calories per 100g) but they contain plenty of health benefiting antioxidants, vitamins, omega-3 and omega-6 essential fatty acids.
- They are very rich in vitamin A. Vitamin A is a powerful natural anti-oxidant and the body requires it in order to maintain the integrity of skin and mucus membranes. It is also an essential vitamin for eye and vision health.
- They are an excellent source of many natural poly-phenolic flavonoid compounds such as α and ß-carotenes .
- Fern shoots are slightly sweet and this comes from their richness in vitamin C. 100 g contains 26.6 mg of vitamin C. Together with carotenes, it helps the body fight against harmful free radicals and offer protection from inflammation.
- They are also rich in potassium, iron, manganese and copper. 100 g contains 370 mg or 7% of daily-required levels of potassium. Potassium is very good for a healthy heart and it also helps to reduce blood pressure and heart rate.
- Further, they also contain small to moderate levels of some of the valuable B-complex group of vitamins such as niacin, riboflavin, and thiamin.
How to safely cook fiddleheads
Fiddleheads have these amazing benefits mentioned above but they do not come without their risks! Caution for the raw food eaters out there: DO NOT EAT THEM RAW! They need to be cooked to be edible.
Clean them very well and place them in a steamer basket. Using a steamer will help preserve their delicate flavors. Bring the water to a boil and let them steam for 12-15 minutes. Serve with butter
Fill a saucepan with enough water to fully cover the fiddleheads. When the water has come to a full boil, add salt and the fiddleheads. Then let them boil for 15-20 minutes. Eat them when hot as their flavor is more tender and sweet.
In a skillet, heat grapeseed or coconut oil over medium-high heat until shimmering. You can use butter as well, but lower the heat to medium since butter has a much lower smoking point. These ferns should be steamed or boiled before adding them because sautéing alone is not sufficient to prevent illness and eliminate the existent toxins that we as humans are not able to digest. Sauté until they start to brown. Add salt to taste, and serve with sliced garlic or shallots if you like.
Now tell me how do you make sure you eliminate the toxins from fiddleheads?