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Fiddleheads ,a nutritious & delicious vegetable

Fiddleheads,anyone? If you have not tasted this delicate vegetable, you are missing out. The taste is a cross between an asparagus and yardlong bean. Others describe the taste as ambrosial.

Fiddlehead refers to the unfurled fronds of a young fern that are usually close to the ground about 1-2″ tall and about 11/2 inch in diameter. The only non carcinogenic fern is the ostrich fern. Fiddlehead from the ostrich fern is a seasonal delicacy and harvested commercially in the Northern part of the United States and in Coastal areas of Canada. The largest producer in North American is Norcliff Farms.Tide head,New Brunswick a Canadian Village calls itself the Fiddlehead Capital of the world.

In Maine,fiddlehead from ostrich fern can be found growing in banks of rivers, stream and brooks. Fiddleheads are harvested in early spring depending on weather condition. This vegetable is not cultivated ,much like truffles. The Japanese calls it San Sai, meaning wild vegetables. In Southeast Asia, fiddlehead grow near riverbanks and brooks and is free for the asking. An Indonesian dish called Gulai Paku is a vegetable dish with fiddlehead as the star ingredient and is cooked with coconut milk and chilies. In my search for fiddlehead recipes, I have not seen uncooked fiddlehead served. Bracken fiddlehead is a delicacy in Japan. In Korea,sauteed fiddlehead is served as a side dish. I have seen this vegetable sold in specialty markets,farmers market and specialty produce company in Late April up to the end of May. it can be found sold in Vancouver and Victoria market in Canada in early spring.

Until 1994, there were no reported food poisoning from eating fiddleheads. Then, a report was publisized, when a group of people who ate fiddlehead in a restaurant in the northern seaboard had fallen sick. Food poisoning was associated with eating raw or slightly cooked fiddleheads. Patrons complained of nausea, vomiting and diarrhea shortly after eating the fern frond. The source of the fiddlehead is a company that harvest fiddleheads from two alluvial sites in Chemung County. The fern fronds were slightly sauteed in butter and seasoned with salt and pepper. CDC (Center for disease Control) recommends cooking the fiddleheads. When boiling, cooked for 10 minutes,when steaming,steam for 20 minutes .

Eating fiddleheads from ferns other than ostrich fern can be hazardous to your health. Bracken fern has been associated in stomach cancer. Bracken fern also contain an enzyme called thiaminase,which breaks down thiamine. Deficiency of thiamine can result in beri beri and other B complex deficiency.

1/2 C of cooked fiddlehead (boiled or steamed) provides 35 calories,7 grams fiber (almost 1/3 of the recommended fiber) and 2 grams protein. It provides 25% of RDA for Vit.A,4% of calcium,2% of Vit.C and 6% of iron.

The season for fiddlehead is now underway (April 30 to June10). If you are in Canada or in the Northern Seaboard,like Maine, you are in luck,restaurants have fiddleheads in the menu . Otherwise, you can buy frozen or pickled fiddleheads which does not resemble the taste of the fresh vegetables. If you happen to find fresh fiddleheads, here’s a recipe for you to follow:
1st wash the fiddleheads in potable water and remove the brown chaff that covers the stem and frond. For 1 pound fiddlehead you need to boil 2 quart water with 1tsp salt. This process helps reduce the bitter taste and removes the shikunic acid. When water is boiling,drop the washed fiddleheads and cook for 10 minutes .Drain well. Set aside. Heat 2 tbsp. unsalted butter in a skillet,when melted, stir in 2 cloves of minced garlic, and 1/4 cup of minced onion. Saute until the onion is wilted. Add the drained fiddleheads and saute until the flavor marries,about 3 minutes. Serve as an appetizer over melba toast, or add as an ingredient to a salad.

Bon Appetit.

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