While all ferns technically have that tight curled tip – the ostrich ferns are the only ones I know that are safe to eat. You can identify them as they have a brown almost paper-like covering on the coiled fern tip. The stem also has a deep “u” shape to them. It is best to pick them when they are about an inch or two up from the ground but still coiled tightly.
These fiddleheads are absolutely delicious and are similar in flavor to asparagus or some say Swiss Chard. You cannot eat them raw – they have to be cooked.
We have found that the best way to cook fiddleheads is to boil them with a little salt for about 15-20 minutes and then saute them with some butter and garlic. They are also excellent when cooked in this manner and the tossed into a cream of chicken soup!
First you will want to rinse the fiddleheads to get rid of any dirt, bugs, and the brown paper. Once rinsed, fill a pot with water, throw a little salt in and boil the fiddleheads for about 15-20 minutes or until softer and bright green.
Drain and rinse. Next put them in a pan with a little butter and minced garlic and saute until fork tender – you really do want to thoroughly cook them, but removing them from the heat before they turn to mush. It can take anywhere from 10-20 minutes in the pan. I like them to get a little brown and almost caramelized in the butter.
Once they are cooked, you can eat and serve these in so many ways. The other night we ate them simply as a side to roasted chicken breast.