The other day I learned that Ostrich fiddleheads are edible. For those of you unfamiliar with fiddleheads, they are the curled sprouts of ferns. My backyard is currently covered in Ostrich ferns popping up. After much back and forth debate it was decided that the fiddleheads would be picked and cooked for dinner.
After researching the ins and outs of fiddleheads we went outside to pick them. I got as many as I could but made sure not to over pick from individual plants. Only pick between 1/3-1/2 of the stocks from any given fern plant to be sure you don't accidentally kill the plant and allow it to grow back. This is a similar mindset to pruning trees or any other plants. You can pick taller ones that haven't completely unraveled yet but I read to keep it to 4 inches or less. Apparently they become fairly bitter as they mature so 4 inches or less seems to be the recommended guideline. I ended up with a good amount of fiddleheads (even though Viira the dog knocked my bowl over at one point and I lost most of them in the ivy patch).
Preparing the Fiddleheads
Fiddleheads SHOULD NEVER be eaten raw. They must be cooked to release thiaminase which depletes vitamin B. This enzyme is destroyed by heat, and therefore fiddleheads are perfectly safe when cooked correctly.
You can find a variety of ways to prepare fiddleheads online. The way I decided to prepare them was by boiling them. I rinsed them and then boiled them for 15 minutes, rinsing them one last time after. While they were boiling they reminded me of green lentils. The water became dark and discolored while boiling them. Don't freak out, this is normal. While these were boiling I cooked up some extra vegetables, quinoa, and tofu with herbs.
Once the fiddleheads were done cooking I set them to the side and then added them into the vegetable stir fry for the last few minutes of cooking so they wouldn't be cold. Below is a picture of what the fiddleheads looked like after boiling. You can see that what was left of brown paper-like wrapping completely fell away during the boiling process.
Easy! Everything is done and now all that's left is to eat it. I seasoned with salt and pepper. Not bad for essentially being weeds growing in the back yard. The taste reminded me of asparagus but not quite as strong. I threw in some cashews and sesame seeds to the stir fry last minute to add to the texture.
Other wild plants that I've eaten: