Fiddlehead Ferns Inspire Forager’s Culinary Fever by Heather Flournoy

Heather FlournoySummary: Early May is the time for foraging Fiddlehead Ferns. Learn how to find them and prepare a scrumptious and truly local meal. The fiddlehead fern is a unique delicacy from the Northeast. They are one of the first green vegetables in the early spring, are around for only a few weeks, and give New England and New York foragers that tell-tale spring culinary fever. So named because they resemble the carved wood on a violin, fiddleheads are the unfurled shoots of the ostrich fern. Once they open and start to grow, they become inedible; the best are tightly wrapped and dark green. They have a delicious intense flavor resembling asparagus, but but with a slightly spicy crunch. There are two regional edible varietes; the ostrich fern and the cinnamon fern. Do not eat bracken ferns. Here are some tips for picking your own fiddleheads: 1: be sure to correctly identify the different types of ferns, as some inedible varieties cause food poisoning. 2: It is very important not to cut the plant to the ground, as it will be unable to reproduce. 3: Collect three to five fiddleheads per plant, snapping them by hand. A great resource for identifying this and other spring greens is “Shoots And Greens of Early Spring in Northeastern North America” by NY Naturalist “Wildman” Steve Brill. Steve will be leading tours throughout Westchester and Fairfield counties in May. For more information visit his website at . Fiddleheads are an excellent source of potassium, vitamin A, a good source of vitamin C and provide some fiber. Important antioxidants and bioflavonoids are also present, which are plant chemicals that help protect against disease. Here is one of my favorite fiddlehead recipes which I suggest serving with Rosemary Rubbed Roasted Organic Chicken and Steamed New Potatoes. Sautéed Fiddleheads & Red Swiss Chard with Garlic and Olive Oil from Executive Chef Gerry Herrfurth, Organic Connection Fresh Food Market & Café in Brewster, NY Note: For best flavor use all organic and/or wildcrafted ingredients. Ingredients: 1 pound Fiddleheads 1 bunch red swiss chard, washed and dried with towel 1 onion, thinly sliced 4 cloves garlic, minced Sea Salt Cracked black pepper Red Chili Flakes Olive Oil Soak fiddleheads in cold water for 5 minutes, remove brown leaf particles by rubbing lightly, and drain. Heat olive oil in large sauté pan, sauté onion and garlic until slightly browned. Add rinsed and dried fiddleheads to sauté pan. Add a little water and cover for 1 minute. Add red swiss chard. Season with sea salt, cracked black pepper and red chili flakes. Sauté for five minutes until fiddleheads are tender. Serves 4 as side dish, 2 as a vegan entrée. If you can’t find, or don’t have the time to find your own fiddleheads, here are some I’ve located in Westchester and Putnam Counties: Available in Produce and in the Deli at Organic Connection, 981 Rte 22, Brewster, NY $8.85/lb

Whole Foods Produce Section, White Plains, NY $11.99/lb

Nature’s Temptations Deli, Rte 35, Cross River, NY

AER Yoga Cafe, Rte 35, Cross River, NY

by Heather Flournoy
Heather Flournoy is a lifelong student of natural health, a freelance writer and horse trainer in Katonah, NY.