Ferns are flowerless plants, and fiddleheads are the immature fern fronds (or leaves) that are usually eaten cooked. Not all fiddleheads are edible, but those of the ostrich fern fiddleheads are, according to The University of Maine. These fiddleheads have a papery brown, scale-like layer on the uncoiled fern.
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Some consider them a delicacy, with the flavor described as being earthy or similar to asparagus or green beans. They are low in calories and fat-free.
The fiddlehead growing season is quite short — late April to early June — and those who love the flavor may want to freeze them to enjoy throughout the rest of the year. Fortunately, you can blanch them and keep them in the freezer for up to a year.
Things You'll Need
Large bowl of ice water
Freezer-safe containers or bags
1. Boil Water
Bring a large pot of cold water to a boil over high heat. You can cover the pot with a lid to quicken the boiling process.
2. Clean the Fiddleheads Thoroughly
You must clean the fiddleheads thoroughly before blanching them. Remove the brown husk by rubbing it off with your fingers, then wash them thoroughly in cold water to remove any sand and dirt.
3. Boil the Fiddleheads
Drop your fiddleheads in the boiling water and wait for the water to come back to a boil. Boil them for 2 minutes.
4. Blanch the Fiddleheads
Drain the fiddleheads in a colander, and then transfer them to the bowl of ice water. Let them soak in the ice water for a minute or so.
5. Freeze Them
Transfer the fiddleheads using a slotted spoon to a clean kitchen towel or onto paper towels. Pat them dry. Transfer them to freezer-safe containers or bags and freeze. They can last in the freezer for up to a year.
Eating raw or undercooked fiddleheads might lead to foodborne illness with symptoms including diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, stomach cramps and headaches, per The University of Maine.
When you defrost the fiddleheads, they still need to be completely cooked before eating (blanching fiddleheads is not enough). Boil them for at least 15 minutes or steam them for about 12 minutes. You can also cook fiddleheads from frozen.