By: Suzanne Brett, RHN – Victoria, BC
For some reason, every time I think of fiddleheads, I’m reminded of leprechauns. It’s possible this has something to do with a connection I have to running through the woods as a child with my father, while he made up stories of mythical woodland creatures that I truly believed existed. This would always be about the time the fiddleheads were beginning to pop through the luscious mossy covered soil. It’s a great memory. Although I do wonder why I don’t think of violins or cellos…
Now, as an adult and Registered Holistic Nutritionist who sadly doesn’t believe too strongly in these gnome and fiddlehead leprechauns anymore, I am still excited this time of year to share with you the nutritional benefits and health impacts of foraging and munching on the diverse flavour of FIDDLEHEADS! YAY!
Fiddleheads are lovely spring fern shoots. Also known as Ostrich ferns or fiddlehead fronds. They can easily be foraged on some grassy/mossy paths near river beds, IN rivers or especially wooded areas. You may be surprised how easily accessible they are, you don’t always need to go on a big foraging trek to get at some munchy treats such as these. They may be right in your own backyard, on the trail you ride to work on, or in the park you take your kids to. They grow along the rhizome path of ferns. Fiddleheads taste much like green beans or asparagus with a slightly increased sweet earthy flavour. So keep your eyes peeled for these and make sure to carry a basket or bag for collecting your FREE nutrient dense side dish this evening.
Let’s get down to the facts, shall we?
Antioxidant super powers:
These young shoots are full of carotenoids that our body so kindly converts into Vitamin A. A is for Amazing Antioxidant, Against cancer. 😉 It’s also great for our mucosa, cell protection and formation and strong beautiful skin.
Vitamin C. We all know this one well. When we feel the sickness coming forth, we pump ourselves full of this great immune supporting vitamin. As usual, there’s also so many great ways of ensuring we’re getting enough of this support through whole foods. In fact, this is the BEST way to absorb many nutrients, as it’s naturally paired with the others that we need the most. This is how food is medicine. Do you get it now? Hippocrates was a smart man!
Zinc. Oh zinc! Do I really need to express my love for zinc rich foods anymore than I have in previous articles? I’m going to spare you the repetition this time around. Feel free to read last month’s article on oysters, for many zinc facts: https://educatedeater.com/2015/03/04/march-feature-food-oysters/
Have an energetic spring:
Due to the fact that these are an early/young spring food, they are higher in those lovely soil-transferred-rich vitamins and minerals. They hold a great amount of iron and copper. Iron from a whole food vibrant green source such as this is the best way to ensure absorption. Feel tired often? Think about your iron intake. Iron is a common deficiency for young adult women. It’s essential for energy production and cell oxygenation. It’s the C that helps us absorb the iron. In fact, it’s essential. Lucky for you, many iron-rich foods also contain high amounts of vitamin C. Just make sure to never overcook these fragile water-soluble vitamins. It’s often possible that if you suffer from anaemia, the proper amount of copper in your diet may not be sufficient. Although, it’s generally more common to have an excess of copper; a deficiency is often overlooked. Copper is much needed for the development of nerve, blood, bone and connective tissues.
There’s also a high amount of potassium and manganese that these lovely shoots absorb from the soil. Combined with iron and copper these all work synergistically to reduce blood pressure, and heart rate by reducing the effects of sodium in our blood stream.
It doesn’t end there. Fiddleheads contain plenty of B1, B2 and B3 vitamins. These are super helpful in supporting blood and energy formation, circulation, healthy metabolism, preventing mental illness and reducing stress.
And for you vegetarians or vegans out there; or any other folk for that matter…fiddleheads are a super option for protein and EFA’s. This makes them also great anti-inflammatory treats that help support auto-immune disease, diabetes and metabolic syndrome. The Omegas found are great in supporting a more balanced nervous system, preventing neurological disorders, mental illness and general stress.
So, if I haven’t said enough: balance your life and balance your plate.
And eat some fiddleheads for STRESS AWARENESS MONTH!
How to prepare fiddleheads:
First thing’s first, I must mention that only the Ostrich variety of fiddleheads can be consumed. Make sure you know the difference and do your research before you start plucking away in your local neighborhood or forest.
Once you’ve collected or bought your fiddleheads, lightly brush off the brown scales with a dry cloth or vegetable brush.
Rinse them under cool water.
Fiddleheads should not be consumed raw. They must be cooked lightly in order to prevent stomach upset, dizziness, lethargy and confusion (much like food poisoning).
Boil or steam the fiddleheads for a brief minute or two in a small amount of water. Discard the water and continue with any recipe you desire. It’s important not to overcook your fiddleheads. Mushy fiddleheads are NO GOOD!
My favourite way to eat fiddleheads, is definitely the easiest. It’s the same way I eat asparagus:
Toss them (3 cups, raw) in a pre-heated pan on Medium heat with a TBSP of butter (or coconut oil), 3 cloves chopped garlic, 1 small shallot, a dash of s&p and lemon zest. I sometimes throw a few chopped herbs on top when serving for extra nutrient value. Best served with a nice fresh fish or chicken. For a great veggie option, add in some cooked fava or kidney beans and toss in olive oil and parsley let cool in the fridge and you have a tasty spring salad.
I hope you enjoy your new non-mythical friends. These guys are the real thing!