When you see that pile of vibrant green curled vegetables, shaped like the head of a violin – fiddleheads – you know that Spring is well and truly here.

Fiddleheads are foraged in the wild, from the earliest season growth of the ostrich fern. Like wild garlic, they’re only available for a very limited time in the Spring, offering a mild and nutty flavour. In short, their taste is hard to describe except that they seem to capture the green, grassy flavour of the new season!

Wild Fiddleheads

Packed with antioxidants, vitamins and minerals, the most important thing to understand about fiddleheads is that they must be cooked. Fiddleheads are toxic if eaten raw. So, before planning any recipe with them, you must blanch or steam them. First, pick out any brown bits, then toss them into boiling water for at least 10 minutes, or steam them for a similar amount of time. Remove from the heat, rinse in cold water and set aside.

Cooked Fiddleheads with garlic.
Cooked Fiddleheads with Garlic

Usually served as a side vegetable dish, you can then sauté them in a little olive oil with garlic and add a squeeze of lemon and a sprinkle of salt to serve; or throw in some bacon pancetta cubes and finish with a drizzle of balsamic vinegar glaze.

However, fiddleheads can also be used in soups, pasta, salads or quiche.

Fiddlehead Salad

  • Serves 2
  • 20 baby tomatoes, halved
  • 2 handfuls of blanched or boiled fiddleheads
  • 6 small bocconcini, halved
  • 2 Tbsp pine nuts
  • 2 handfuls of spring salad leaves

For the dressing:

  • 2 Tbsp olive or hazelnut oil
  • 1 Tbsp honey
  • 1 tsp French mustard
  • 2 tsp red wine vinegar

Toast the pine nuts in a dry frying pan until they begin to turn golden and smell nutty. Remove from heat and set aside as they will continue to cook in a hot pan.  Combine the salad ingredients in a bowl. Take a small empty glass jar and combine the dressing ingredients, adding salt and pepper to taste. Shake well to combine. Dress the salad just before serving.

Quick Fiddlehead Quiche

Fiddlehead Quiche in a Skillet.
  • Serves 4
  • 1 9-inch deep dish tart shell
  • 2 whole eggs, 2 egg yolks
  • 1 cup cream
  • ½ milk
  • 2 medium leeks
  • 1 Tbsp butter
  • 1 large handful fiddleheads, blanched or steamed for 10 to 12 minutes
  • 200g grated cheddar cheese
  • Salt and pepper

Steps:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 350 Fahrenheit
  2. Prick the tart shell all over with a fork. Slide it into the oven to pre-bake for 12 minutes, until golden, but not dark. Keep an eye on it.
  3. Meanwhile, sauté the thinly sliced leeks in the butter. Set aside.
  4. In a large bowl, combine the eggs, egg yolks, cream, milk, most of the grated cheese (keep some back to sprinkling on the top), fiddleheads and leeks. Add salt and pepper.
  5. Once the pie shell is pre-cooked, place on a baking tray, pour in the fiddlehead mixture, bake at 350 degrees for approximately 30 minutes, or until the centre does not wiggle when you shake the tray.
  6. Serve with a green salad. 

Fiddlehead Pasta

Penne Pasta with Tomatoes
  • Serves 2
  • This is a quick and simple supper.
  • 2 cups penne pasta
  • 2 handfuls of fiddleheads, blanched or steamed for 10 to 12 minutes
  • 2 large sausages or 6 strips of bacon
  • 10 baby tomatoes, halved
  • Olive oil
  • Handful of fresh basil

Steps:

  1. In a frying pan, cook your sausage or bacon. Cut into small pieces and set aside in a warm place.
  2. Bring a large pot of water to a boil, add a generous amount of salt. Cook your pasta until al dente – about 10 minutes. Drain. In your warm pasta pot, mix the penne, olive oil, sausage or bacon, fiddleheads (cut in half if large) and chopped tomatoes. Tear up your basil leaves and add. Serve with lashings of freshly grated parmesan cheese.

Fiddleheads and Soup

Carp Soup with Fiddlehead

Fiddleheads make a great garnish for soup. Combined with small, curled pink shrimp of about the same size or Carp, they’ll lift any creamy vegetable soup you are serving. Try them floating atop a spring leek and potato, or spinach soup for a shot of colour and fun!

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