I have been looking for fiddleheads myself in previous years, and found different types of fern but was not sure if they are indeed fiddleheads. So, here are the distinctive features. It’s an ostrich fern if:
- • The coils are about an inch in diameter.
- • A brown papery sheath is peeling off the coils.
- • A deep “U”-shaped groove is on the inside of the fern stem.
- • The fern stem is smooth (without fuzz).
In Maine, fiddleheads usually emerge in clusters of three to 12 on the banks of rivers, streams and brooks in April and May. They should be harvested when the coils are an inch or two above the ground.
Fiddleheads contain about 22 calories per half cup serving. Fiddleheads also provide a good amount of vitamin C, niacin and potassium. The taste of fiddleheads is unique. “It has been described as grassy and spring-like with a hint of nuttiness, or as a cross between asparagus and young spinach. Some say it has a flavor similar to an artichoke, maybe with a whiff of mushroom. “
They have to be thoroughly cleaned under running water, and steamed in boiling water for at least 10min. After that, they can be sauted in a bit of butter or later served cold within salads, such as mixed salads with greens, cranberries and blue cheese.