Kids & Company Blog

Fabulous Fiddleheads!

May is here and the sun is shining brightly; this means it is that time of year again for fiddlehead hunting. Get your sunscreen on, grab your bottle of water and explore the woods in search of the ostrich fern before it’s too late. The young curled leaves look like scrolls of a fiddle, hence where the name was derived from, often found close to flood plains, near rivers or streams. They are a native plant of Canada occurring in all provinces but most abundant in New Brunswick, Southern Quebec and Southern Ontario. Fiddleheads are in their coiled form for only 2 weeks in May before they unfurl so now is the perfect time to gather your friends and family together for the hunt. The kiddies will love searching with you and picking this special Spring delicacy.  They are delicious to eat but once they grow beyond 7.5cm they become too bitter and the season is over until next year.

Fiddleheads are said to have a magical quality; William Shakespeare wrote in Henry IV of the character, Gadshill the thief, and credits the “Fern Seed” for rendering him invisible. Telling this magical story is such a fun way to get your kiddies to try this new veggie!

Fiddleheads are full of vitamin A, vitamin C, niacin and riboflavin.  They are a nutritional powerhouse that is rich in antioxidants and a great source of fibre. They have twice as many antioxidants as blueberries and are high in omega 3 and 6 fatty acids, all which have anti-inflammatory properties. The high iron content causes the ends to oxidize very quickly once they are cut, so you have to eat them up or you can store them in cold water in the fridge where they will last for up to 3 weeks. You need to wash them well because they collect sand and dirt; submerge them in cold water and drain twice to make sure all debris are removed.  Once they are all cleaned up it is best to steam the fiddleheads to ensure optimal nutritional value.

I always love this time of year as the produce transitions at the local farmers market from winter veggies to the bright vibrant spring vegetable colours. The short window available of fiddleheads is an instant reminder that winter is finally over and we can look forward to long sunny days ahead.  The best way to cook fiddleheads is to bring a pot of water to a boil and steam the cleaned fiddleheads for 2 minutes, drain and rinse in cold water to maintain the texture and colour.  These are a great compliment to any barbecued protein but I especially LOVE them with grilled fish.  If you cannot eat all your collected fiddleheads they can be frozen to keep for a special treat for later. Make sure you place them into a freezer bag and add water covering the fiddleheads to avoid freezer burn.

Fiddleheads are a delicious and nutritious spring treat in Eastern Canada; try them and you will be pleasantly surprised. They are but a fleeting moment of wonder as they are only around for two weeks of the year – so get foraging or head out to the farmer’s market in the next couple of weeks for this magnificent find!

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Cheers,

Chef Lisa Ruscica

Chief Food Ambassador

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