For the edible landscaper, the early spring shoots of the ostrich fern, called fiddleheads, are considered a delicacy. They are especially popular in the spring on the East Coast. Although the fiddleheads of several types of ferns are eaten, those of the ostrich fern are considered the best-tasting and safest to eat.
When the shoots emerge from the crown of the plant, the tops are curled like the scroll of a violin (hence the name fiddleheads). Harvest them when the tops are still tightly curled, and before the shoots are more than a few inches tall. Fiddleheads harvested too late become tough and unpalatable.
Although sometimes eaten raw, there is some speculation that raw fiddleheads can cause stomach upset or food poisoning. They are generally considered safest to eat after being cooked until tender (steam or boil for about ten minutes). Serve as a side dish with butter, or prepare according to your favourite recipe for a unique springtime dish!