Fiddleheads are a taste of spring in the Northeast and some areas of the Midwest and Northwest. Although these fern heads do grow wild in some areas of the country, backyard gardeners can also grow fiddleheads for their family’s consumption.
The fiddlehead is the coiled-up bud of a fern before it unfurls into the shape we know as a fern. The buds get this name because the coil looks similar to the scroll at the end of a violin or fiddle. Ostrich ferns are the common choice for this culinary delicacy, which tastes sort of like a combination between asparagus and spinach, but with a woodsy flavor.You can cook fiddleheads just about any way, including steaming, stir fry, roasting or in soups.
Ostrich ferns may be grown in regions that experience moderate winters and mild summers. These plants do not do well in heat or dry climates. The ferns do best with plenty of organic matter; that’s why in the wild, you’ll often find them growing in the decaying leaves underneath trees. For growing at home, prepare you garden soil with leaf compost and test for a pH between 5.5 to 6.0. They like shade and plenty of water. Since they grow in patches in the wild, you may choose to fill a bed with them in your backyard. They make attractive landscape plants.
If you are unable to grow fiddleheads in your backyard, you can harvest them in the woods or usually find them in grocery stores and farmers’ markets from the end of April through early summer. If you live south of the Mason-Dixon line, you’re probably out of luck for fresh-picked fiddleheads, but you may be able to find them on the menu of gourmet restaurants.
How to harvest fiddleheads: