Canada 150: New Brunswick Fiddleheads & Fiddlehead Greek Salad

If you are following my Canada 150 series you may have wondered why there was no feature post for the month of May. Well, truth be told, I went on a glorious 2-week holiday with my hubby in May and the month basically disappeared before my eyes. I hope that you will graciously accept this “May” post a few days late at the beginning of June.


New Brunswick

This month we venture into our first maritime province as we visit New Brunswick. If you are planning a trip, be sure to rent a car if you can and take one of the five main scenic drives that will take you around its picturesque coasts, valleys and rivers. You may also want to visit Hartland, New Brunswick and see the longest covered bridge in the world! 

Fiddlheading in New Brunswick

If you happen to arrive in the early spring, sometime between April and May, you may want to pack your hiking gear and find some locals who can take you through the forests of New Brunswick in search of a Canadian spring delicacy, fiddleheads, or baby ferns. 

There's always first time for everything.

Many Canadians have not tasted this amazing vegetable, so if you haven't either, you're not alone. Here's my memorable first experience cooking fiddleheads. 

The fist time that I cooked fiddleheads was when my sister’s boyfriend (now my brother-in-law) came to our house for the first time. As a native of ZImbabwe and now an Australian resident, I wanted to cook him a truly “Canadian” meal and assembled a spring meal of barbecued hamburgers, homemade roasted sweet potatoes and sautéed fiddleheads.

This was my first time cooking fiddleheads, which was a bit of a risk but I felt that it was necessary to pull out all of the stops to showcase our rich Canadian food!

I wish I could tell you how scrumptious the fiddleheads were and that I completely fell in love with these furled friends, but I can’t say that I remember a lot about how the fiddleheads turned out because I was too enamoured by the fact that our guest of honour ate his hamburger with a knife and fork! True story; this true gentleman had the best manners I had witnessed in my entire life!

Sourcing fiddleheads

If you are looking to try this Canadian culinary treasure and you do not live in New Brunswick or have easy access to a bush/forest in your backyard, you can look for them at your local farmer’s market, larger grocery store chain, or specialty grocer in the early spring. Additionally, some stores may carry fiddleheads year-round in the frozen vegetable section.

If it's your first time foraging for fiddleheads, be sure to go with an expert so that you don't pick anything that isn't edible or potentially toxic. Not all ferns can be eaten!

Is it true that fiddleheads are poisonous?

Fiddleheads have been at at the centre of several cases of food borne illness, in both Canada and the United States, related to eating them raw or undercooked. 

To take extra precaution, the government of Canada recommends that you follow the following procedure when cooking with fiddleheads:

  • Wash fiddleheads in cold water, several times, changing water each time and being sure to remove as many of the brown dry spots
  • Choose to either boil fiddleheads for 13-15 minutes, or steam for 10-12 minutes.
  • Always discard the washing/rinsing/cooking water

Don't let this scare you though! These delicacies are too good to miss!

Fiddlehead nutrition

This unique vegetable is packed full of nutrition. A serving of fiddleheads is low in calories, high in fibre, low in fat and even contains a source of protein. They are an excellent source of vitamins A and C, and B-vitamins (niacin and riboflavin), and also contain iron and calcium in small amounts. 

Nutrition aside, the real reason to eat fiddleheads are their great taste, texture and flavour!

How to cook with fiddleheads

After following the protocol for cleaning and cooking with fiddleheads as outlined above, fiddleheads can be used in ways that are similar to asparagus --- in fact, it’s a good one-to-one substitution. Steam them followed by a quick sauté in extra virgin olive oil in the frying pan before serving as a delicious side to any dish; throw them in an egg dish or use them as a topping on pizza or in a pasta dish. I came across this delicious Greek salad recipe incorporates fiddleheads for a really unique look and great taste. Enjoy!


Fiddlehead Greek Salad

Adapted from Tourism New Brunswick; Makes 1 large serving bowl; enough to feed a crowd!

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups fiddleheads, steamed 10-12 minutes
  • 1/2 red onion, chopped
  • 1 English cucumber, chopped
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 18-24 Kalamata olives, whole or halved
  • 14 basil leaves, roughly chopped
  • 24 oregano leaves, roughly chopped
  • 1 cup feta cheese, crumbled or sliced in cubes
  • 1-2 tsp coarse sea salt
  • 1-2 tsp black pepper
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil 
  • 2 Tbsp fresh chives, chopped (garnish; optional)
  • 1-2 lemon wedges (garnish; optional)

Method:

  1. In a medium-sized mixing bowl, combine the steamed fiddleheads, red onion, cucumber, tomatoes, olives, fresh basil and oregano together. Set aside. 
  2. In a small mixing bowl or glass measuring cup, whisk the olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper together.  Once combined, pour over the vegetables and mix well.
  3. Add the feta cheese, giving one final toss and place in the fridge for approximately one hour to allow the flavours to combine. 
  4. Just prior to serving, toss again and add freshly chopped chives and lemon wedge(s) as a garnish. 


Please leave your comments below or any other way(s) that you enjoy eating fiddleheads!

 

Take it one bite at a time, 

Rosanne

 

References:

  1. Tourism New Brunswick. Discover New Brunswick's Regions. Retrieved June 3, 2017 at http://www.tourismnewbrunswick.ca/TravelInfo/ScenicDrives.aspx.
  2. Canadian Nutrient Profile. The Government of Canada. Retrieved June 3, 2017 at https://food-nutrition.canada.ca. 
  3. Food Safety Measures for Fiddleheads. The Government of Canada. Retrieved May 21, 2017 at http://www.healthycanadians.gc.ca/recall-alert-rappel-avis/hc-sc/2013/26809a-eng.php.
  4. Tourism New Brunswick. A Feast of Fiddleheads. 5 steps to picking and eating New Brunswick's favourite springtime treat. Retrieved May 21, 2017 at http://blog.tourismnewbrunswick.ca/a-feast-of-fiddleheads?_ga=2.25327925.981358509.1496509621-109304719.1496509621.