Originally published April 28 2011
Nutrient-rich wild fiddleheads are a spring delicacy
by Melissa Sokulski
(NaturalNews) Fiddleheads, or the curled young fronds of a fern, are high in nutrients and are considered a spring delicacy. Fiddleheads are high in vitamins A and C, omega 3 and 6 essential fatty acids, and fiber. Only available at the beginning of spring, they are considered a delicacy around the world from North America to Asia.
In North America ferns flourish in New England and Canada. In the early spring, new growth of a fern emerges as curled leaves called fiddleheads. Ostrich, bracken and cinnamon ferns are most often chosen as edibles though no varieties are known to be poisonous. The fiddlehead of ferns may be eaten raw or cooked though the Center for Disease Control advises boiling or steaming for at least 10 minutes. This will kill any microbe the fern may harbor and will cook away any toxins some believe to be associated with ferns.
One should never harvest all the fiddleheads from a patch or it could destroy the whole fern. To harvest fiddleheads sustainably take only two or three from each patch and move on to the next.
Fiddleheads are a nutritious seasonal vegetable. High in vitamins a and c, they protect the body and boost the immune system. One of the few green vegetables with appreciable amounts of omega 3 and 6 fatty acids, fiddleheads are anti-inflammatory and help balance the hormonal system. As with other vegetables, fiddleheads are high in fiber can protect us from disease. Fiddleheads are also high in potassium and low in sodium.
One caution: fiddleheads contain thiaminase, which breaks down thiamine (a B vitamin.) Consuming too many fiddleheads can theoretically lead to thiamine deficiency. This would be difficult to do as fiddleheads are only available for a few weeks in spring.
Across Asia many dishes are made with fiddleheads. In Indonesia fiddleheads are cooked with coconut milk and spiced with chili pepper, lemon grass and turmeric. In Japan they are enjoyed as a wild vegetable. In the Himalayas they are often pickled and served with local cheese.
Fiddleheads are delicious sauteed with other wild delicacies of early spring such as morel mushrooms, wild ramps, nettles and dandelion greens. Sauteed in organic butter or olive oil with onions and garlic, they can be served over brown rice. The nutrition and taste garnered from wild seasonal food is worth the effort in learning to identify and harvest them.
Elias, Thomas and Dykeman, Peter. Edible Wild Plants, A North American Guide. Sterling Publishing Company. New York. 1990.
About the authorMelissa Sokulski is an acupuncturist, herbalist, and founder of the website Food Under Foot, a website devoted entirely to wild edible plants. The website offers plant descriptions, photographs, videos, recipes and more. Her new workbook, Wild Plant Ally, offers an exciting, hands-on way to learn about wild edible plants.
Melissa also runs The Birch Center for Health in Pittsburgh, PA, providing the best in complementary health care: acupuncture, therapeutic massage and herbal medicine.
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