Fiddlehead Season Has Arrived, But Be Careful
I actually kind of forget about fiddleheads over the rest of the year. Their season is so short, that once July rolls around, I kind of fondly write them off in my mind for the rest of the year. And then sometime in the spring when things are starting to turn a bit more green instead of brown, friends on Facebook start flooding my newsfeed with pictures of the fiddleheads they just picked.
I'll be honest, I'm not ambitious enough to go pick my own. But over the years, I've tried to get to know a few of the locals that sell them to know who's got the freshest supply. Generally, I like to buy them from someone right on the side of the road. Often, they're less than a day old, and a lot of times, picked just that morning. Not to say the ones in grocery stores aren't any good, but I also like to help the little guy.
Everybody has their favorite way to cook/eat them, so I'm not going to fill this page with recipes, but I do want to stress the importance of handling them properly. Under no circumstances should you eat fiddleheads raw. No one is even 100% sure why they make you sick, but you will regret every bite you took.
You can end up with symptoms that can include nausea, diarrhea, abdominal cramps, or vomiting. The CDC even has a web page dedicated to reports of fiddlehead illness.
It's super easy to avoid getting sick, though. Mostly, clean them off really well. All the dirt and brown papery skin, and rinse them til the water runs clear. Then, simply boil or steam them for ten minutes. Then you can eat them as is, or cook them up however you like from that point.
The real trick is, they just need to be boiled first. If you saute raw ones in a pan for a few minutes, even if they're hot all the way through, they could still make you sick. I've had the sickness myself years ago, and it's awful. It's like all the best parts of the flu, but with no aches or fever. Ugh.
You gotta be careful, but a tiny bit of prep makes for a tasty meal!