In case you’re not familiar with them, a fiddlehead is the curled, edible shoot of the ostrich fern and is considered a seasonal delicacy in many parts of North America.
I have not always been one of those people expectantly awaiting each springs fiddlehead harvest. Yes, I do really like fiddleheads and their unique shape and taste. I have eaten them many times, both at home and in restaurants.
So what is my issue? Fiddlehead cleaning needs to be meticulous. So, when you’re a bit of an OCD/Type A personality…like me, they can be a time-consuming (but very rewarding….lol) to clean.
People would tease me that I was going way over the top with my obsessive cleaning (read…unfurling each fern checking for bugs) of the fiddleheads, but apparently, and unbeknownst to me, I was correct to be so careful.
I am by no means trying to dissuade you from eating them, but be aware that fiddleheads can cause food poisoning if they have not been stored, prepped or cooked properly. Enjoy them while they’re available, but don’t forget to be very thorough with their preparation.
Using your fingers, remove as much of the brown papery husk on the fiddlehead as possible.
Wash the fiddleheads in several changes of fresh, cold water to remove any residual husk or dirt.
Cook fiddleheads in a generous amount of boiling water for 15 minutes, or steam them for 10 to 12 minutes until tender. Discard the water used for boiling or steaming the fiddleheads.
Cook fiddleheads before sautéing, frying, baking, or using them in other foods like mousses and soups.
Clean the fiddleheads properly.
Boil them for two minutes.
Discard the cooking water.
Plunge the fiddleheads into cold water and drain.
Pack the fiddleheads in freezer containers or bags.
Store fiddleheads in the freezer for up to one year for best quality.
Follow the complete cooking instructions above before serving.
Never re-freeze thawed food.
Do not use a pressure canner to preserve fiddleheads at home. Safe process times have not been established for home-preserved fiddleheads.
(Source: Government of Canada/Health Canada)
I just came back from our local market with a bag of freshly picked fiddleheads!
Usually, I just steam them and have them as a veggie at dinner time. However, today I thought I would try something different…a Fiddlehead, Leek and Gruyère Tart.
The most time-consuming task when making the tart is the cleaning of the fiddleheads. I found cleaning them under running water prior to the several changes of fresh, cold water to remove any residual husk or dirt, worked best. (You want to get rid of any of the brown papery bits.)
Cook fiddleheads in a generous amount of boiling water for 15 minutes, or steam them for 10 to 12 minutes until tender. Discard the water used for boiling or steaming the fiddleheads. Immediately move them to a colander placed in a bowl of ice water. This stops the cooking, preventing them from becoming overcooked.
With the tip of your knife, score a one-inch frame around the sheet of phyllo.
Using a fork dock (prick with a fork) all the dough that is within the frame. This will prevent it from puffing up too much.
Bake in preheated, 400° F oven for 20 minutes, rotating halfway through cooking time.
Remove pastry from oven and sprinkle 1/2 the cheese over the phyllo, followed by the leek mixture, the fiddleheads and finally, the remaining cheese.
Bake for an additional 20 minutes or until the phyllo dough is golden brown.
Cut into small squares to serve as an appetizer or if you wish to serve the tart for lunch or a light supper, cut into larger squares and serve with a side salad.
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 leek, trimmed, cleaned and thinly sliced
- 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
- 1 sheet good quality, made with butter, phyllo dough, thawed as directed on package.
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1½ cups gruyere, grated
- ½ pound fiddleheads, well cleaned and blanched for 15 minutes.
- Heat the oil in a pan over medium heat.
- Add the leek and cook until tender, about 3-5 minutes.
- Next, add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about a minute.
- Remove from heat and season with salt and pepper.
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
- On a slightly floured piece of parchment paper unroll thawed pastry.
- Using a floured rolling pin, roll the puff pastry into a 12-by-10-inch rectangle.
- Place pastry and parchment on a baking sheet.
- With a sharp knife, lightly score pastry dough 1 inch in from the edges to mark a rectangle. Using a fork, pierce dough inside the markings at ½-inch intervals.
- Bake in preheated, 400° F oven for 20 minutes, rotating halfway through cooking time.
- Remove from oven and sprinkle ½ the cheese over the phyllo, followed by the leek mixture, the fiddleheads and finally, the remaining cheese.
- Bake for an additional 20 minutes or until the phyllo dough is golden brown.
- Cut into small squares to serve as an appetizer or if you wish to serve the tart for lunch or a light supper, cut into larger squares and serve with a side salad.
As always, if you have any questions at all, please feel free to ask and I will do my very best to answer.
Looking for some more great fiddlehead recipes, facts and info? Be sure to check out the “Fiddlehead” post of some of my East Coast blogging cohorts!
Follow the hashtag – #ECMFiddleheads