What a pleasure to savor the new fiddleheads that announces the arrival of the warm season! Every spring, lovers of the outdoors and good food watch for the new fern shoots to appear.
As the picking period is very short, we don’t hesitate to make more than one outing in the forest to pick this capricious vegetable at the right time. One should pick only the fern shoots of the ostrich which is quite easily distinguished from other varieties. To identify it, I suggest you consult a book on edible wild plants. To protect the species, only 3 to 4 shoots are picked per crowns that are 2 to 6 inches tall. To make cleaning easier, I remove the brown skin that covers the shoots as I pick. The fiddlehead tastes of greenery and almond, is rich in vitamins A and C.
Since the taste of this vegetable deteriorates quickly, it should be eaten within two days of picking or purchase. The fiddleheads are cleaned by rinsing them several times in cold water, stirring the water to remove as many small brown skins as possible. Surpluses can be frozen by blanching them in a pot of boiling water for 2 minutes and cooling them in an ice-water bath for 2 minutes. Drain well, spread on a clean cloth or paper towel to absorb the excess water and freeze in bags. As freezing alters the flavor and texture of fiddleheads, I prefer to prepare them topped with béchamel sauce or in a soup.
A few years ago, I developed a special way of cooking fiddleheads that removes the pungent taste that persists even if the vegetable is well cleaned of its brown particles. I put two pots of water to boil, I cook the fiddleheads for 2 to 3 minutes in the first pot, I drain and them to the second pot to finish cooking. Cooked fiddleheads are delicious, plain, sautéed in butter or topped with hollandaise or béchamel sauce. They are also prepared in vinaigrette, in soup or in