Fiddlehead

From Academic Kids

Fiddlehead is a name referring either to a young fern or to the top part of immature fronds that appear curled. The fiddlehead, or circinate vernation, unrolls as the fern matures and grows due to more growth in the inside of the curl.

Missing image
Fiddlehead.jpg
Fiddleheads at Milford, New Hampshire, 2004

The fiddlehead resembles the curled ornamentation (called a scroll) on the end of a stringed instrument, such as a fiddle. It is also called a crozier, after the curved staff used by shepherds and bishops.

The fiddleheads of certain ferns are eaten as a cooked leaf vegetable. The most popular of these are:

Some ferns contain carcinogens, and Bracken has been implicated in stomach cancer. Despite this, most people can eat ostrich and cinnamon fern fiddleheads without any problems, and ostrich fern fiddleheads are a traditional dish of New Brunswick. In 1994, there were several instances of food poisoning associated with raw or lightly cooked fiddleheads in New York state and Western Canada. No definitive source of the food poisoning was identified, and authorities recommended thorough cooking of fiddlehead ferns to counteract any possible unidentified toxins in the plant.

Many ferns also contain the enzyme thiaminase, which breaks down thiamine. This can lead to beriberi and other vitamin B complex deficencies if consumed to excess or if one's diet is lacking in these vitamins.

Fiddleheads have been part of traditional diets in much of Asia, Australia and New Zealand, as well as among Native Americans for centuries. In Japan, bracken fiddleheads (known locally as わらび or 蕨, warabi) are a prized dish, and roasting the fiddleheads is reputed to neutralize any toxins in the vegetable.

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