Fiddleheads are one of a rapidly dwindling list of foods harvested or gathered in the wild, instead of produced by the agricultural industry. Fresh berries stare at us from the produce aisle all winter long now, and asparagus can be had at any time of year. Almost all of the "fresh" foods we eat are produced on factory farms and shipped long distances to insure a constant supply. But fiddleheads are traditional New England food, still harvested from the wild as they have been for thousands of years, and therefore only available when nature allows.
Fiddleheads -- which are nothing more than the tender shoots of the ostrich fern (Matteuccia Struthiopteris) -- are gathered from low-lying riverbanks from Massachusetts to New Brunswick. There's no commercial farming of fiddleheads, but thousands of acres of wetland marshes are managed to support the annual harvest. The ostrich fern grows eventually to a span of around four feet.
Cut when they are one to two weeks old, the fiddlehead is a tightly coiled green shoot with a fuzzy protective mantle. Tender and flavorful, they have an earthy freshness that's unlike any farm-raised vegetable.
Low in carbs and calories, this is an ideal side dish for a diabetic or weight-loss regimen.
1 lb fiddleheads, trimmed and washed
1/4 C water or stock
3 thin slices vidalia onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
[2 T butter - optional]
salt, hot sauce and balsamic vinegar, to taste
Bring the liquid to a boil in a wok or skillet. Toss the onions and fiddleheads for about a minute, until the fiddleheads are bright green but still crunchy. Add garlic, cover and steam for 3 minutes. [Add optional butter and toss until it melts.] Correct seasoning.
Note: The Nutrition Estimate does not include any added salt or optional ingredients. Add 52 calories per serving, 6g fat and 2 more WW points if you use the optional butter.