It’s difficult to call a plant with such a whimsical shape serious eats but fiddlehead ferns or fiddlehead greens have antioxidant properties that rival the nutritional benefits of spinach and blueberries. High in iron, fiber, potassium, phosphorous and magnesium, fiddleheads have been part of traditional diets in much of Northern France since the beginning of the middle ages, as well as among Native Americans for centuries. Locally harvested in Canada and New England in late April and early May fiddlehead ferns are a popular edible plant among foragers who look for the tightly coiled bright green unfurled frond of the Ostrich fern on the forest floor. Their plump curved top resembles a shepherds crook (crozier) or the scrolled ornamentation at the end of a violin, hence the name fiddlehead. Harvesting the fronds requires a demonstrated knowledge of wild plants as incidences of food poisoning and serious illness due to improper picking, preserving or cooking of fiddlehead ferns have been reported.
Wanting to pay homage to this rite of spring but not wanting to tamper with nature, I decided to create a reasonable facsimile of the fiddlehead using Pillsbury prepackaged breadstick dough and basil pesto. This is an easy kid-friendly kitchen activity, a lesson in botany and a perfect way to introduce young eaters to the flavor of pesto. It’s also a great way to add a touch of whimsy to your springtime menu.
Recipe for Fiddlehead Fern Bread Sticks
Open package and unroll the bread dough sticks. Spread the top third of the each stick of dough with a small amount of basil pesto. Roll top third of the dough into a fiddlehead scroll , arrange on baking sheet and bake according to package directions.