On Vancouver Island, we have one good Fiddlehead Fern, the lady fern. A Fiddlehead is a young fern who’s end is still curled in a tight spiral. This spiral shape reminds many people of a fiddle, hence the name.
They are ready to harvest in early spring, they are delicious as a main course or as a side dish. The flavor has been described as similar to green beans with a hint of artichoke. But descriptions do not begin to describe what they really taste like. You must try them yourself to know the wonderful flavor that awaits you.
The coiled end of the fern is called a crosier. Ferns should be picked early in the morning when they are still very young and fresh. The crosier should be tightly curled and should snap off crisply. They must be washed carefully and rubbed to remove the papery brown skin on the outside.
The basic preparation for Fiddleheads is very simple, but can also be used in a variety of gourmet recipes. Whether you go the simple route or choose something more elaborate, be certain to exercise caution if you decide to harvest them yourself. There are many varieties of ferns, but only the lady fern is recommended for consumption on the coast. They must be cooked very well.
If you aren’t experienced and you don’t know a fern expert, please be cautious and try only a very small amount first, then wait a few days before consuming more.