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The Little Whimsical Spring Herb

· Plant Guru Blog

by Mary Goddard

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Fiddlehead Focaccia

When coming up with recipes one aspect I like to consider is if the dish will be aesthetically pleasing. I wanted to highlight the beauty of fiddleheads by putting them on display. I have garnished sautéed salmon with fiddleheads as well as soups and salads, but this time I wanted to create something a little different.

Picking and preparing fiddleheads is a tedious task. You can easily spend a couple of hours scraping and washing off any shields or scales that often cover them. On a bright spring day, sometimes the day escapes me and I find I have little or no time to clean the fiddleheads before dinner.

This dish makes me feel accomplished. A handful of fiddleheads is all you need for this beautiful bread (and I love the fact that this dish impressed my mother!) If you don't know my mom, you should know that she is a professional when it comes to baking breads and working with doughs. It is something my grandmother taught her and it is something she continues to do to this day. Last year when visiting my parents in Yakutat, I threw together this bread to go along with dinner. Instantly my mom asked me for the recipe.

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My first attempt at Fiddlehead Focaccia. Not my favorite. However, after a few attempts I came up with a recipe I want to make every spring!

It took a couple of tries to get this recipe right. A couple of the mistakes I made in the beginning was to soak the fiddleheads in lemon juice, thinking this would help preserve the bright green color of the fiddleheads. I was wrong, instead the fiddleheads tasted pickled. Not a taste I was hoping for to top this bread. My second mistake was to use only fiddleheads to top the focaccia. Not a huge mistake, but I have found that fiddleheads are complimented by other savory flavors and the result is more complex and cohesive.

Cleaning fiddleheads can get tiring quickly. The easiest way I have found is to place the fiddleheads in a bowl of water and refrigerate them overnight. This makes them a lot easier to clean. Especially if you have picked Shield Ferns. These ferns are characterized by being covered with brown flaky scales.

Fiddleheads can be found in early spring.

Fiddleheads can be found in early spring. They are ready for picking when they are tightly curled up. When the curls begin to get loose and open up, it is past it's time to harvest. However, I have heard that if you cut the fiddlehead off, it will continue to produced heads all summer long. I have only tried this once and it seemed to work. I suppose if you have a nice patch in your yard you may want to try this.

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One important thing to note, is that fiddleheads should always be served cooked. They contain thiaminase, a vitamin B depleting enzyme. From my understanding this can cause stomach irritation if consumed raw. Simple cooking or heating thoroughly destroys this enzyme.

Why go through the trouble of harvesting Fiddleheads?

Oh yes, here is when we talk about nutrition. Besides adding a whimsical touch to your dish, these little swirly whirlies are full of vitamins and sure pack a punch for their size. So, you don't have to feel too bad about only picking a cup full this year. (I'm kidding! Get out there and pick!)

Fiddleheads are high in iron, potassium, vitamins A, B and C. They are rich in omega 3 fatty acids. They contain niacin, protein, and antioxidants. They are a good source of macronutrients. Basically you want to eat these.

I found this article from Health Benefits Times informative, and an easy read. Click below to check it out.

Fiddleheads have been around a long time, and have been recognized as a good foraging herb by many.

Fiddleheads have been around a long time, and have been recognized as a good foraging herb by many. Even googling "fiddleheads" you are sure to find lots of resources and information on this plant. You will even find recipes, though I haven't found too many varieties on the recipes, mostly "Sautéed Fiddleheads" and adding them to pasta dishes and soups.

I came across this article to share with you. This is a good read if you want some basic information on Fiddleheads. I suggest reading this if you have never foraged for them before or just want further clarity.

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