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Last night I had a brilliant idea to write about mushrooms, which included a story on one of my go-to meals while living in St. Paul as a student at Le Cordon Bleu. At the time, I was eating a lovely salad with a side of cooked lentils when my mind switched gears and pondered the idea of writing a piece on pulses, lentils specifically. But the next morning, when I woke up to write, I opened my e-mail to find a message from a friend asking about fiddlehead nutrition. The week before I had done research on fiddleheads, so they were on my mind, but I was also frustrated over how little, reliable information was available. Rather than waver between mushrooms or lentils, I decided ...why not fiddleheads!?!
Fiddleheads in the northern region of the U.S. are of the Ostrich Fern variety, but there are many others available throughout the world, including parts of Asia, Africa and Europe. This year, the first of the ferns I ate were purchased at my local farmers market, but I soon realized how copious they were nearby and throughout northern MN. Originally, my intentions while foraging, were to hunt for morel mushrooms, but I still haven't found a single shroom. Instead, I have been finding these lovely ferns grow wild from Duluth to Jenkins to Waukenabo, MN. They are super easy to find this time of year, and foraging is a great way to enjoy the outdoors, so get outside today and look!
Nutritionally speaking, the research on fiddleheads is sparse. Some websites postulate, "high in Omega-3 and 6," while others say, "high in iron and fibre," or that they have lots of antioxidants. After a bit of digging, I did find a couple reputable sources to confirm the nutritional profile. Importantly, one must pay attention to the preparation when assessing the nutritional makeup, since cooking denatures proteins, which alters nutrient composition. For example, when fiddleheads are frozen, the amount of protein, vitamin A, calcium, magnesium and potassium decreases when compared to it's raw form. See below for nutritional profile from the USDA, SelfNutritionData website on raw fiddleheads.
When frozen, boiled, then drained..... (this information from the Canadian Nutrient File)
the nutritional profile slightly changes.
One resource reported that many ferns contain an enzyme, which breaks downs thiamine (another important vitamin). It can eventually lead to beriberi if consumed in extreme excess. As is the case with most foods, LESS is more. Eat in moderation.
When cooking Ostrich Ferns, be sure to boil for at least 10 minutes so you do not get sick. Naturally, they are toxic, so be sure to boil before you saute.
2. bring a pot of water to a boil, add the cleaned ferns and boil for 10 minutes
3. drain off the water
4. heat a pan with olive oil; add garlic, fiddleheads and a pinch of salt and cook for 2-3 minutes
Serving Suggestions: I like to add these to lentils, sausage, eggs or on toasted bread with cheese. They are packed with flavor and are ohhhh so delicious. I simply cannot get enough - at least until the end of the month when the season ends - Look below to see how I've enjoyed them.