May 2nd, 2012 Fiddleheads are a magical and much anticipated springtime treat. They are the unfurling fronts of a young fern plant, emerging in deciduous forests and near waterways, around the first week of May. Harvested when still tightly curled, fiddleheads are a premium wild forage vegetable. In lowland forests from the Great Lakes to the Maritimes of Canada the Ostrich Fern ( Matteuccia struthiopteris ) emerges in profusion each spring. Fiddleheads are much like wild leeks - that is to say, they’re a wild plant that must be harvested ethically. Only two to three fiddleheads should be removed from every plant. By summer the remaining ferns will be four feet tall, and thick even after this harvest. The clean lowlands of Nova Scotia and along the East Coast of the United States have been successfully managed for commercial harvest for more than 200 years. They are wild lands but for the harvest each spring. If more than 2 inches of stem remains attached beyond the coiled part of the fiddlehead snap or cut it off. If any of the paper husk remains on the fiddleheads you may rub it off by hand. After the chaff is removed wash the fiddleheads in several changes of cold water to remove any dirt or grit. Drain the fiddleheads completely. Use them fresh, and soon after harvest. Fiddleheads are versatile and easy to use. They have a mild taste reminiscent of asparagus or broccoli, with a mushroom-like earthiness and a nutty bite. Fiddleheads should not be eaten raw. Ever. After several cases of illness were reported from eating raw fiddleheads in the early nineties, Health Canada issued specific food safety tips for fiddleheads. They recommend that fiddleheads be cooked in boiling water for 15 minutes or steamed for 10-12 minutes. We don’t want to scare you, but we also don’t want to make you sick! So be a responsible fiddlehead eater, and follow these instructions. While most Ontarians consider fiddleheads to be a "local" treat, you may find it interesting know that various edible fern varieties grow and are eater around the world. Fiddleheads have been part of traditional diets in much of Northern France since the beginning of the Middle Ages. In Indonesia, young fiddlehead ferns are cooked in a rich coconut sauce spiced with chili pepper , galangal , lemongrass , turmeric leaves and other spices. In East Asia, fiddleheads of bracken ( Pteridium aquilinum ) are eaten as a vegetable, called warabi in Japan, gosari in Korea, and juécài in China and Taiwan. In Darjeeling and Sikkim regions of India, it is called ningro and is well loved as a vegetable side dish, often mixed with local cheese. Back to Canada, the village of Tide Head, New Brunswick , bills itself as the "Fiddlehead Capital of the World." Fiddleheads contain twice as many antioxidants as blueberries. They’re a great non-marine source of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids and are rich in iron, fibre, zinc, beta-carotene, and potassium. Try them boiled or steamed, then simply sautéed with butter and a squeeze of lemon. They can be used in place of broccoli, asparagus, or green beans in quiche, omelets, stir-fry, and pasta dishes. Or give this recipe a shot!