Fiddlehead fern fronds in Quebec, Canada
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Foraging for fiddleheads. Fiddlehead fern fronds
These rolled-up fronds of a young fern are known as fiddleheads and, in various countries, are harvested in springtime as a delicacy. Eaten in parts of Europe, Asia and North America for centuries, fiddleheads are not only tasty but are also packed with health benefits: They’re a source of antioxidants and omega fatty acids, as well as iron and fibre. When cooked, fiddleheads bring a nutty, grassy flavour, said to be like a cross between spinach and asparagus.
If you’re a fiddlehead first-timer, don’t just rush out to the woods and start picking. You’ll want to research which varieties are safe to eat. Some have been found to cause cancer, particularly if they're not properly cooked. In North America, the ostrich fern is the most common choice, but don’t pick every shoot or you might kill the plant. After gathering a safe and sustainable harvest, pop them in a pan with a little butter or olive oil, sizzle them with lemon and garlic and enjoy a well-earned taste of spring.