The only ferns we have around are Shield ferns. The fiddleheads have LOTS of that brown paper like stuff, so they have to be cleaned before using. I usually just take one of those green scrubber pads and use it dry to clean the fiddleheads. I wish we had some Ostrich ferns around our homestead. I've heard they're "naked", so you don't have to scrub them. Someone told me of a nursery in Eagle River, AK that sells them, and that they transplant (probably the roots?) and multiply quickly. That's one of the things I want to try when we get back home. Cleaning all those Shield ferns is such a tedious, time-consuming chore.
I've never had bracken fiddleheads. What are they like? I suppose you can pretty much eat all fiddleheads the same? What are your favorite ways to eat them?
Here are some of our favorites:
NOTE: For anyone who has never used fiddlehead ferns, they are baby ferns that are still coiled. They must be cooked before you eat them because they contain thiaminase, which is an enzyme that depletes B vitamins (or maybe it's just thiamine) in your body. Heat destroys that enzyme.
1. Boiled or steamed til tender. Then I like to let them cool (I chill them outside if it's still cold enough). Then eat them like a salad or with a wild green salad with dressing.
2. Sometimes I steam them until tender, then stir-fry them in butter and herbs (lots of garlic). Sometimes I melt a little cheese over them if we have any.
3. I use them pretty much any way I'd use cooked broccoli or asparagus. They're good in egg dishes.
4. We love them battered and fried! Sometimes, after our garden starts producing, I do the same with broccoli and cauliflower.
5. Pickled fiddleheads are a delicious treat, and make an interesting gift for folks in the lower 48 who have never eaten fiddleheads.
6. If you have electricity and a freezer, I've been told that you can blanch and freeze them. We don't have a freezer or electricity, so one year I canned them. It worked, but they weren't very tasty that way. Survival food?
I've dried a few. They turned very dark, but reconstituted well and tasted fine. Just didn't look very good. Maybe it would have been better to dip them in lemon juice before drying?? Still better than canned fiddleheads.Baskets
: Once the ferns mature, but before they begin to die back, you can pick the ferns, strip off the leaves, peel away the outer part of the main stem and use the inner stem for making baskets. They also hold dye well. I once died them with highbush cranberry juice. That was pretty. It's not a very strong material, but can be use for decorating other baskets or for small baskets.
Does anyone know how to keep a patch of fiddleheads going. I've never been able to do that, but I've heard that you can cut (or stomp) the ferns, then more fiddleheads will pop up. Maybe I'm just not looking close enough, or maybe our winter comes too early to get a new batch??
More fiddlehead recipes . . .? ? ?
JennyAlaska HOMESTEADING Journal