8 Facts You Might Not Know About Fiddleheads
Available for 3 weeks of the year, the fleeting taste of early spring can be captured in this special vegetable;
1. They are older than dinosaurs! By over 100 million years! Ferns first show up in fossil records before flowering plants existed.
2. It was once believed to give you superhuman powers. During the Middle Ages, people thought fern seeds made you invisible. They would appear only once a year to reproduce at midnight on St. John’s Eve (June 23). Even Shakespeare wrote about it in Henry IV. Just to clear things up: ferns reproduce through their spores.
3. They are one of the only vegetables native (not cultivated) to Canada. It was the Maliseet, Mi'kmaq, and Penobscot peoples of Eastern Canada that traditionally harvested fiddlehead and introduced the vegetable to the Acadian settlers in the early 18th century.
4. Fiddleheads, when uncoiled, turn into ostrich tails. The leaf of a fern that resembles an ostrich tail, that is. There are many types of fiddlehead-type ferns but the fiddlehead we know and love in Ontario come from the ostrich fern.
5. New Brunswick is considered the “Fiddlehead Capital of the World”. Tide Head, New Brunswick to be exact! You can find fiddleheads in wet sunny floodplains of Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia, and most abundantly, New Brunswick.
6. They keep your skin healthy and immune system functioning well. Fiddleheads are nutritionally comparable to asparagus and many other green vegetables giving eaters a good dose of Vitamin A and C.
7. Apple blossoms are helpful hints that these tender greens are ready to harvest.
8. Fiddleheads themselves are not toxic BUT it is bacteria that can easily get stuck in the coils that may cause gastrointestinal illnesses. We recommend a 15 minute boil or a 20 minute steam bath before consumption. Do not eat any fern past the fiddlehead stage, or if the fiddlehead has started to turn purple or black.
The flavour of a fiddlehead is like a love child between asparagus, okra, and green beans. Take that information as you will and create your own delicious fiddlehead dish. Or check out one of our favourite ways to cook fiddleheads on #freshcitycooks.
Remember: if you are foraging for fiddleheads, harvest responsibly. Know your plants and only take 5-15% of the crop.