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Fiddle-dee-dee

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By Jessica Wong, CBC News

When spring finally comes along, I'm always happy to see local produce turning up in the market. In recent years, the little, alien-looking fiddleheads have attracted my attention — they're even offered in some large grocery stores nowadays — but I'd never tried them. Inspired by a colleague waxing poetic about the springtime treat in her Facebook status last week, I decided to take the plunge.

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Fiddleheads are a springtime delicacy, only available for a short window of time. (Jessica Wong/CBC).

Described in taste and texture as a cross between a green bean, asparagus stalk and broccoli stem, fiddleheads are the edible shoots of the ostrich fern, harvested while still young and unfurled. Though available in different provinces, they're a delicacy I've heard most often associated with Atlantic Canada, New Brunswick in particular.

Part of my reticence to the tiny stalks — don't they look straight out of some fairy-tale book? — came from the whiff of danger surrounding the tender veg: raw, they contain a type of natural toxin that, if the fiddleheads are not cooked adequately, will make eaters quite ill.

After scooping up a half-pound at the market (and receiving few helpful guidelines from the duo of giggling young cashiers), I began scouring the web for recipes. Did I want a fiddlehead stir-fry, fiddleheads tossed with pasta or maybe a fiddlehead omelette? Twittering for suggestions also provided some valuable advice (Thanks to @ahildebrandt and @auntlisa). After a bit of contemplation, I figured simple would be best, at least for my first time. After trimming the stalks a bit, I gave the fiddleheads a five-minute blanch, a quick shock in ice-water and then sautéed them in garlic and butter.

The fiddleheads looked lovely next to the mound of garlic mashed potatoes and slices of rib-eye steak I served alongside. A forkful of delicate, green fiddlehead did taste like a taking a bite of spring as well as being a satisfying reward for expanding my produce horizons. Consider me a fiddlehead convert.

Have you ever tried fiddleheads? How do you like to prepare them? What inspires you to try a new fruit, vegetable or another type of food?

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