Fiddleheads, also called crosiers, are the edible young unfurled leaves of the ostrich fern that grow beside riverbanks and streams. With a limited growing season that lasts only a few weeks in late April and early May, fiddleheads are considered one of the first treasures of spring, making them a rare and prized delicacy. Fiddleheads are not cultivated, but are harvested in the wild and need to be collected just days after they emerge from the soil, for after they uncoil, they're inedible. There is much discussion about the flavor of these succulent greens. Some say fiddleheads tastes nutty and earthy, reminiscent of asparagus, spinach and even artichokes or broccoli rabé. They have a fabulous crisp texture and unique flavour that is wonderfully rich and delicious.
Fiddleheads get top marks when it comes to nutrition — high in vitamins C and A, and a great source of iron. They also contain twice as many antioxidant properties as blueberries, which make them the antioxidant kings. Shaped like no other veggie, fiddleheads are just a few inches in diameter, and are often encased in brown, papery scales, so they need to be washed well and drained before using. The exquisite flavor of the ferns are at their best when served within hours of picking, either steamed until tender, or simply sautéed in a little butter and fresh garlic. Whichever way you like to prepare them, take a walk on the wild side and rejoice in one of the great culinary signs of Spring.
Sautéed Fiddleheads with Garlic
1 lb fiddleheads
2 garlic cloves, finely minced
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp butter, to taste
Maldon salt and black pepper
Wash the fiddleheads. Remove any fuzz found in the curl of the fiddlehead, by running your finger across the fiddleheads. Heat oil in a sauté pan over medium–high heat, then add the fiddleheads and garlic and cook, covered, for 3–4 minutes. Uncover and cook for an additional 3–4 minutes or until they are tender but still are slightly crunchy. Add salt and pepper to taste and swirl in some butter. Serve immediately.