Fern tips are the fresh fronds of the ostrich fern (Matteuccia struthiopteris). The popular name fiddle heads comes from the fact that their rolled up shape looks like a fiddle head. The taste of this spring delicacy is reminiscent of asparagus. They freeze well and are easy to prepare, but they also come with their risks. We'll show you some preparation methods and explain how to avoid these risks. Just read on!
- Fern tips
- Cooking oil or butter for sautéing
- Butter, salt to taste
Step 1. Clean the fern tips
Rinse them thoroughly, then transfer them to a bowl of cold water. Remove any bits of brown paper and rinse them again until they look green and there are no bits of paper left.
Caution. Never eat fern tips raw like other vegetables! They cannot be eaten uncooked - there have been a lot of reports of food poisoning associated with ingesting raw or undercooked fern tips
Step 2. Use the preparation methods listed below
Step 3. Serve with butter
If you eat them hot, season them lightly and don't forget - the less you wait after making them, the better they taste! Here are more serving suggestions:
- Add a dash of vinegar to the freshly cooked fern tips.
- Serve as a starter on crostini or toast.
- Let them cool and serve in a salad with onions and vinegar dressing.
- Almost any recipe with asparagus works well with fern tips too.
Method 1 of 3: steam cooking
Step 1. Place the fern tips in a steamer basket
Steam cooking retains the delicate aroma of the fern tips.
Put water in a saucepan or steamer, but don't submerge the fern tips in the water
Step 2. Bring the water to a boil
Steam the fern tips for 10-12 minutes until tender.
Method 2 of 3: Cooking
Step 1. Bring water to a boil
Fill a saucepan with enough water so that the fern tips are completely covered with water.
Step 2. Add a pinch of salt
When the water has boiled, add the salt.
Step 3. Stir in the fern tips
Wait for the water to boil again, then boil the fern tips for 15 minutes.
Method 3 of 3: sautéing
Step 1. Heat oil
Heat a neutral oil such as grapeseed oil or vegetable oil in a pan over medium to high heat until it starts to shine. You can also use butter. Then you should lower the temperature to medium heat supply - because butter has a much lower boiling point than oil.
Step 2. Add the prepared fern tips
The fern tips should be steamed or boiled before sautéing. Sauteing alone is not enough to prevent disease.
Step 3. Sauté them until they begin to turn brown
Add salt and thinly sliced garlic or shallots to taste. Let them cook for another minute.
Step 4. Serve and enjoy the fern tips immediately
- The fern tips should be coiled tightly. If the fern tips are old = "Image" and folded up, don't eat them. Read Canada's Food Safety Advisor To Fern Tips here.
- Fiddle heads are approximately 2 to 3 cm in diameter. You can recognize them by the brown paper-like scale-like coating on the rolled up fern, as well as by the smooth fern stem and the deep U-shaped notch on the inside of the fern stem.
- Recognize fiddler heads correctly. There are many different species of fern. However, fern tips are the only ones that are edible and safe to eat. There are other varieties of ferns that are similar to the fern tips, but can be poisonous or inedible.
- Fiddle heads that you can buy in the market are safe to eat. But you should exercise caution if you are looking for this green stuff in nature on your own.
- Make sure your fiddle heads are from a safe source. Supermarkets are usually perfectly safe. Just to be on the safe side, ask your greengrocer where they come from. In rural areas, they often come from farming. If you buy them from a farm, make sure that farm has a good reputation. Wild fiddler heads that are collected by the roadside can contain pollutants.
- Fiddle heads need to be cooked thoroughly before you can eat them. At worst, if not cooked properly, they taste awful. They contain a natural toxin known as shikimic acid that it is best not to digest. Illnesses caused by fiddleheads include diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, and stomach cramps.
- Fiddler heads are often harvested in early spring and only three out of seven fiddler heads should be picked from a plant. Otherwise the plant will die.
- Always be sure that you properly identify wild plants before you eat them.