Research / Dr. John DeLong
Similar to wild mushrooms there are many species of ferns that grow in the wild. Some species like the Ostrich fiddlehead fern are suitable for human consumption. There are varieties that are not and have been found to be carcinogenic. Such as the Bracken fern.
Norcliff harvests the ostrich fern which has no natural toxins. According to Dr. John Delong at Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (Kentville, NS): “there has been no natural toxin identified in ostrich fern fiddleheads to date”. However, Dr. DeLong advises the public to adequately cook fiddleheads according to Health Canada recommendations before consumption.
In addition, the untrained eye may mistake other types of ferns for the ostrich fern.
Sources: Atlantic Food & Horticulture Research Centre, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, 32 Main St. Kentville, Nova Scotia B4N 1J5
It is important to note that fiddleheads are exclusive to the ostrich fern or Matteuccia Struthiopteris, as previously mentioned. Although Fiddleheads grow on soil that has never been cultivated or sprayed with pesticides, herbicides or fungicides and 100% chemical free , the word “organic” is presently reserved for cultivated crops that have been grown on soil that has been surveyed and deemed chemical free for a minimum of three years.
Instead, we refer to wild crops such as wild leeks, ramps, wild mushrooms and fiddleheads as“Wild Harvested Produce”.
Wild Harvested veggies grow naturally, often on land that has been left undisturbed and naturally fertilized for hundreds, perhaps even thousands of years. Fiddleheads are a Wild Harvested vegetable, growing completely on their own in the wild – “As Mother Nature Intended”.
They are harvested with the utmost respect for their natural environment. Their roots are left undisturbed, thus ensuring the plant suffers no damage.
It is recommended to boil fiddleheads (approximately 8 minutes, of until tender) before consuming, however many people consume fiddleheads only a few minutes after boiling.
When boiled fiddleheads taste like asparagus and/or broccoli.
When steamed fiddleheads taste more bitter, like spinach and/or rapini