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21 May 2010

fiddleheads! Pick 'em right! Stop rusting! Live forever (if you're not hit by a bus)! / fiddlehead recipes!

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Tierra de los Sueños
First Day Issue: fiddlehead
(Matteuccia struthiopteris)

Fiddlehead season has just come and gone, and to our great surprise & delight we find ourselves in the middle of a metric shitload of fiddleheads.

1 metric shitload = 0.8973 English shitload

Fiddleheads are a wild and delicious fern. When they're ready around this moment, you pick and steam them -- not too little and not too much -- and they make a delicious vegetable or salad addition.

Wikipedia says fiddleheads have more antioxidants than blueberries. If you could eat fiddleheads all year round, and not be struck by a bus, you would live forever. 

All living things are like burning candles or rusting iron -- they age, and decay, by the process of oxidation.

Eat blueberries and other berries, and fiddleheads, and (so the theory goes) your oxidation rate slows down. This antioxidant stuff traces back to 2-time (chemistry, peace) Nobel prizewinner Linus Pauling, who, late in life, came to the conclusion that the best way to stop your body from rusting was to gobble enormous amounts of Vitamin C. 

Now it's a little more complicated, and a large group of food molecules called antioxidants will keep you healthy to age 120 (if you're not struck by a bus, or shot in a domestic incident).


... In rural areas, fiddleheads are harvested by individuals in early spring. When picking fiddleheads, three tops per plant is the recommended harvest. Each plant produces seven tops that turn into fronds; over-picking will kill the plant. Maintaining sustainable harvesting methods is important in the propagation of any non-farmed food species.

Culinary uses

Pan Roasted Chicken Breasts, Garlic Mashed Potatoes, Fiddlehead Ferns and Sauce Supreme.
Fiddleheads have been part of traditional diets in much of Asia, Australia and New Zealand, as well as among Native Americans for centuries.

Asian cuisine

In Indonesia, young fiddlehead ferns are cooked in a rich coconut sauce spiced with chilis, galangal, lemongrass, turmeric leaves and other spices. This dish is called Gulai Pakis, sometimes gulai paku, a dish which originated from the Minangkabau ethnic group of Indonesia.

In East Asia, fiddleheads of bracken (Pteridium aquilinum) are eaten as a vegetable, called warabi (蕨) in Japan, gosari (고사리) in Korea, and juécài (蕨菜) in China and Taiwan. In Korea, a typical banchan (small side dish) is gosari-namul (고사리나물) that consists of prepared fernbrake fiddleheads that have been sauteed. It is a component of the popular dish bibimbap. In Japan, bracken fiddleheads are a prized dish, and roasting the fiddleheads is reputed to neutralize any toxins in the vegetable.

In Japan, fiddleheads of flowering fern (Osmunda japonica), known as zenmai (薇) in Japanese, as well as those of the ostrich fern (Matteuccia struthiopteris), known as kogomi (コゴミ), are commonly eaten in springtime. Fiddleheads in Japan are considered sansai, or wild vegetables.

In the Indian subcontinent, it is found in the Himalayan wilderness. In Kullu valley in Himachal, it is known locally as "lingri" and is famously used to make a pickle "lingri ka achaar".In Kangra velly of Himachal it is called 'Lungdu' in Local Kangri pahari language.

North American cooking

Ostrich ferns are also known as fiddlehead ferns. Fiddleheads are a traditional dish of northern New England (predom. Maine) in the United States, and of Quebec and the Maritimes in Canada. The Canadian village of Tide Head, New Brunswick, bills itself as the Fiddlehead Capital of the World.

When cooking fiddleheads, first remove all the yellow/brown skin, then boil the sprouts twice with a change of water between boilings. Removing the water reduces the bitterness and the content of tannins and toxins. The Center for Disease Control associated a number of food-borne illness cases with fiddleheads in the early nineties. Although they did not identify a toxin in the fiddleheads, the findings of that case suggest fiddleheads should be cooked thoroughly before eating. The cooking time recommended by health authorities is ten minutes if boiled and twenty if steamed. The cooking method recommended by gourmets is to spread a thin layer in a steam basket and steam lightly, just until tender crisp.

Fiddleheads are available in the market for only a few weeks in springtime, and are fairly expensive. Pickled and frozen fiddleheads, however, can be found in some shops year-round.

Health effects – pros

Agriculture Canada reports that scientists are just discovering how nutritious fiddleheads are — even better than blueberries, the gold standard for antioxidants. They have found that fiddleheads are twice as strong as blueberries with regard to antioxidant activity.

Antioxidants help neutralize free radicals linked to the development of a number of diseases including cancer, cardiovascular disease and other age-related conditions such as Alzheimer's.

Test results also showed that fiddleheads are packed with the nutrient omega-3 fatty acids.

Fiddleheads are a good source of dietary fibre. They are low in sodium, and contain vitamins A and C, niacin, potassium, phosphorus, iron, and magnesium.[1]

Health effects – cons

Some ferns contain carcinogens, and Bracken has been implicated in stomach cancer.[citation needed] Despite this, most people can eat ostrich and cinnamon fern fiddleheads without any problems.

In 1994, there were several instances of food poisoning associated with raw or lightly cooked fiddleheads in New York state and Western Canada. No definitive source of the food poisoning was identified, and authorities recommended thorough cooking of fiddlehead ferns to counteract any possible unidentified toxins in the plant.[2][3][4][5]

Many ferns also contain the enzyme thiaminase, which breaks down thiamine. This can lead to beriberi and other vitamin B complex deficiencies if consumed to excess or if one's diet is lacking in these vitamins.[6]


  • Lyon, Amy, and Lynne Andreen. In a Vermont Kitchen. HP Books: 1999. ISBN 1-55788-316-5. pp 68–69.
  • Strickland, Ron. Vermonters: Oral Histories from Down Country to the Northeast Kingdom. New England Press: 1986. ISBN 0-87451-967-9.

External links


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