Life awaits beyond the beaten path
Dryopteridaceae – Wood Fern family
Perennial herbaceous plant
Up to 6 feet tall, although in the great lakes region, 3 - 4 ft is the norm
The leaves grow in large feather like fronds. Unlike Pasture Brake, Ostrich Fern fronds do not branch, and arise from a central point. They look as though they might be growing from a vase.
Stem runs the entire length of the frond. If you look at the plant, it resembles an ostrich's plume. In early spring, the first curled up fronds peak out from the soil. They are curled up, and look rather like the end of a violin; this is where the name fiddlehead comes from.
Care should be taken when picking your fiddleheads, although no species of fern is poisonous, some are not palatable. It is also EXTREMELY important that you remember to only pick the curled up fiddleheads, as when the frond unfurls, they develop toxic compounds.
Moist woods, Along sunny banks of streams and ponds.
Fiddleheads (young new growth when tightly curled)
Wild Food Uses:
Sliced fiddleheads are great in salads, boiled, or steamed for 10 - 15 minutes. My favorite way to eat them is sautéed in butter and bacon. They are delicious, and reminiscent of asparagus. I absolutely love them in soup. I make a cream of fiddlehead soup that is out of this world.
Soup recipe: Start by gathering about a pound or so of young fiddleheads. I wash them thoroughly, then set them aside while I begin the soup. I dice one medium sweet onion, two large carrots, and 2 stalks of celery, and saute' them in 2 - 3 tbsp of olive oil in a large pot until tender. I then add the fiddleheads, and continue until they are heated. I then add 32 oz of chicken stock, and bring to a boil. I then cover, and reduce the heat to med - low, and simmer for about 30 to 45 minutes, until the ferns are very tender. I then carefully pour the mixture into a blender and puree until smooth. (You can also use an immersion blender right in the pot). I then transfer the soup back to the pot. I finish with two tbsp of butter, and about 1/4 - 1/3 cup of heavy cream. Stir until blended, and serve immediately.
The following text is meant for informational purposes only. It is not meant to diagnose or treat any illness or injury. Always consult with a physician or other qualified medical care provider concerning the diagnosis and treatment of any illness or injury.