I had never saw anything like those.
They instantly reminded me of the young leaves of a giant fern we saw in Australia.
Then I discovered that fiddleheads ARE ferns.
I never knew that there were ferns which are good for human consumption.
I had to try them.
So I bought them and then looked them up on the Internet.
I found out that here in North America people eat the ostrich fern variety, and mainly in Quebec, Ontario and the Maritimes, fiddleheads are boiled or steamed and then seasoned with butter and lemon or vinegar.
Of course I am now planning a trip to Tide Head, New Brunwick, self-proclaimed “Fiddlehead Capital of the World”.
Fiddleheads are also rich in potassium, iron, antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids. Great, I thought, they’re also healthy!
But then I read the back of the package:
and started to panic: Health Canada? Why Health Canada?? What had I bought???
I checked online, and found the warnings issued by no less than the Government of Canada: undercooked fiddleheads can cause food poisoning.
Maybe I got a little paranoid, but I decided that risotto was the best way to feel sure I had cooked them through without overcooking them.
So I started with washing them, rubbing them to discard any brown papery peel that may still be on them. I kind of expected them to attack me with Alien-like sets of teeth hidden in the spiral, but nothing happened.
Then I dutifully boiled them for 15 minutes in lightly salted water: during this operation, nothing but grass odour came from the casserole.
Finally I made the risotto, and a simple parmigiano risotto I made, because what I wanted to discover was how do fiddleheads taste like.
Well, in my opinion they taste a lot like asparagus. Or at least in this risotto form, they do. Maybe next time I’ll try them on their own. Or maybe I’ll really go to Tide Head, New Brunswick, next weekend!