Fiddleheads or Fiddlehead greens are the furled fronds of a young fern, harvested for use as a vegetable. Left on the plant, each fiddlehead would unroll into a new frond (circinate vernation). As fiddleheads are harvested early in the black season before the frond has opened and reached its full height, they are cut fairly close to the ground.
Fiddleheads have antioxidant activity, are a source of Omega 3 and Omega 6, and are high in iron and fibre.
The fiddlehead resembles the curled ornamentation (called a scroll) on the end of a stringed instrument, such as a violin. It is also called a crozier, after the curved staff used by bishops, which has its origins in the shepherd’s crook.
The fiddleheads of certain ferns are eaten as a cooked leaf vegetable. The most popular of these are:
Bracken, Pteridium aquilinum, found worldwide
Ostrich fern, Matteuccia struthiopteris, found in northern regions worldwide, and the central/eastern part of North America
Cinnamon fern or buckhorn fern, Osmunda cinnamomea, found in the Eastern parts of North America
Royal fern, Osmunda regalis, found worldwide
Zenmai or flowering fern, Osmunda japonica, found in East Asia
Vegetable fern, Athyrium esculentum, found throughout Asia and Oceania
Fiddleheads have been part of traditional diets in much of Northern France since the beginning of the middle ages, Asia as well as among Native Americans for centuries.