Although spring has been more winter-like than spring, fiddleheads will be popping up any day now. Fiddleheads are the tightly coiled fronds of a new fern. The name comes from their resemblance to the curled end of a musical instrument such as a violin or fiddle. The fiddleheads of the Ostrich fern are highly prized and are the only ones that should be eaten. Fiddleheads of other ferns should be avoided because some, such as the Bracken fern, have carcinogens. You will find fiddleheads growing wild in forests (especially in damp areas) and along rivers.
The flavour resembles fresh asparagus or mild broccoli. Be careful when picking these ferns (or any wild plant) because you need to leave lots of plant shoots so they can regenerate. Most people enjoy them steamed or boiled then sautéed in butter and garlic or tossed with vinegar. You may need to boil them in two changes of water if they have a bitter taste. You can substitute fiddleheads for other greens in all kinds of recipes. I was surprised to learn that these young plants are a source of Omega 3 and Omega 6 fatty acids and are high in iron and fibre. The fiddlehead season is very short and they grow fast so you have only a short time in which to harvest them. Fiddleheads are only one of the many wild treats coming this spring if you know what to look for. For recipes you can check out farmersalmanac.com or just look on the internet.