Walk into Whole Foods or any supermarket that caters to local foods, and you may be confronted with coiled green veggies the size of a big coin, usually advertising themselves with a sign saying something like “Buy Local!” or “New England delicacy!” Ever wonder what the fuss is about?

Behold the fiddleheads.

Fiddleheads are technically unfurled fronds of a species of ostrich fern. They get their name because of their shape—literally like the top of a fiddle. And they really are northerners, New England locals. The season for picking them starts in May and continues through early July. Since they aren’t cultivated for mass production, they are only available in these couple of months.

Thus they will grace the produce isle only for several weeks.

Delicious and cautious is how one could describe them. Delicious, because these “veggies” are very versatile in cooking and have a unique texture and flavor—somewhere between asparagus and okra. You can sauté them, steam them, use them in soups, braise them, and marinate them to your liking. Cautious, because they have a very specific growing and eating season. You can only eat them before they fully unfurl, which renders them inedible. And you must blanch them first—boil quickly in salty water and throw in cold water afterward—to get rid of some bitter acid they have in them when raw.

Fiddleheads have all the benefits of dark green veggies—they are low in calories, high in fiber, crunchy in texture, and are a good source of vitamin A and C. But the taste is something else—so good, in fact, that fiddleheads have something of a cult going among locals who seek them out when in season to get the freshest pick.

Fiddleheads love Maine in particular, where you can find them being sold by the van load on the side of the road. And told enthusiastically by a local producer on how to cook them right lest you forget to boil that bit of bitter acid and get turned off these weird-looking, delicious ferns.

There is no better judge than your own palate though. So go get yourself some and make your own conclusions while you consume your own unique piece of New England.

Isn’t it cool that we have something growing that omni-producing California doesn’t?


Julia Timakhovich

Please Visit: Healthworks Fitness

(Images: from Flikr, Appaloosa)