A few weeks ago, Ed came home from a weekend in Maine and told me he got to eat fiddleheads. I had heard of fiddleheads before, but didn’t know anything about them. Then this past weekend I was in Boston at a wedding shower for my future sister-in-law, and fiddleheads were served with the other veggies. I ate as many as I could since Ed had been so excited about them, but when I got home I decided it was time I did some research to figure out what they are all about.
As it turns out, fiddleheads are superfoods!
Fiddleheads are the unfurled leaves of the fern plant, and they are harvested in early spring. They are picked before the leaves are exposed to full light and fully opened, so they are still curled up tightly. Ferns may have five or more fiddleheads, but it is recommended that only three fiddleheads are harvested for sustainability reasons.
There are many different types of fiddleheads, and they are only available seasonally. Since they are not cultivated, they are harder to come by and can be very expensive. Fiddleheads are found primarily in New England, and fiddleheads from the ostrich fern and cinnamon fern are the most common. Most fiddleheads must be cooked, because they contain shikimic acid, a compound found in certain plants that can upset the stomach when consumed. The cooking will alter the plant such that the shikimic acid can no longer hurt the stomach.
Now onto the exciting part…
Research has shown that fiddleheads contain twice the amount of antioxidants as blueberries! Blueberries have always been known for their high amount of antioxidants, so when I learned that fiddleheads have twice as many, I was shocked. In addition to antioxidants, fiddleheads contain omega-3 fatty acids, fiber, and many other vitamins and minerals. I’m glad I took Ed’s advice and ate a lot of them in Boston last weekend!
Fiddleheads taste sort of like asparagus – they are pretty mild. Some people like to pickle them, which I know Ed would love. I found a recipe here if you live in the New England region and want to try it! In the meantime, to all my Maine and Massachusetts readers, if you ever come across fiddleheads at the grocery store, farmer’s market or on the menu at a restaurant, I recommend trying them. They are extremely healthy and taste great!