Monday, May 18, 2009 | 01:42 PM ET
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.
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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About the blog
From trends and culture to politics and nutrition, Food Bytes serves up tasty tidbits about food and the issues surrounding it that flavour our everyday lives.
About the writers
Amber Hildebrandt writes for CBCNews.ca in Toronto. Growing up on a farm in Manitoba, she acquired an insatiable appetite, but it was during a stint in Japan that she developed her discerning tastebuds and "foodie" ways.
Andrea Chiu is an associate producer at CBC Radio Digital. Though she loves to eat, cook and discuss food, don't ask her to bake. It never turns out well. She tweets as @TOfoodie on Twitter and organizes food and wine events in Toronto called FoodieMeet.
Tara Kimura is the consumer life reporter for CBCNews.ca, covering a wide range of issues that range from rising food costs and the growing organic movement, to new trends in the marketplace.
Andree Lau is a CBC web reporter in Calgary. Her journalism career includes seven years as a CBC-TV reporter. Her own blog called "are you gonna eat that?" chronicles her eating adventures (including sampling snake and camel hoof tendon).
Jessica Wong is a CBCNews.ca writer who loves to eat and cook, as well as discuss, read and watch programming about food, sometimes all at once.
Kevin Yarr, CBCNews.ca's writer in Prince Edward Island, wrote about food and beer for national and regional magazines before joining the CBC. He acquired a desire for new tastes on his first trip to Europe, and an appreciation of eating locally and in season when he finally settled down on P.E.I.
Elizabeth Bridge is a writer with the CBC Digital Archives in Toronto. She first ventured into the kitchen as a child to indulge a sweet tooth by baking cookies and making fudge. A student budget compelled her to be a vegetarian (for a while) and instilled in her an ongoing curiosity about food and cooking.
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