It is finally spring on the New Hampshire Seacoast! The snow has melted. Crocuses, hyacinths and daffodils are blooming. And the local farmers markets will begin soon – with an abundant selection of organic meats and cheeses, farm fresh eggs, breads, and early produce – lettuce, spinach, peas and fiddleheads.
“What is a fiddlehead?” Fiddleheads are the furled fronds of an ostrich fern. They get their name from their resemblance to the head of a fiddle or violin. Fiddleheads are harvested early in the season before the frond has opened and reached its full height. Bright green specimens are best with only an inch or two of the stem.
A number of fiddlehead festivals are held in New England to celebrate the arrival of spring. Maine celebrated its 3rd Annual Fiddlehead Festival in early may and Vermont is celebrating their First Annual Fiddlehead Festival at Mount Snow Valley this weekend, May 23-26, with music, cooking classes and contests, children’s games and fiddling contests. Vintners, artists, distillers, publishers, cheese makers, weavers, potters, jewelers, chefs, photographers, farmers, and artisan chocolatiers will be showcasing their products. For more information, visit http://vermontfiddleheadfestival.com.
Fiddleheads taste somewhat like asparagus or young spinach, freeze well and are easy to prepare. Do not eat fiddleheads raw as they can be the source of food-borne illnesses. Rinse in cold water, steam or sauté with butter. They can be added to salads, omelets or grains.
Fiddleheads have antioxidant activity, are a source of Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids, and are high in iron and fiber. Certain varieties of fiddleheads have been shown to be carcinogenic.