For the Love of Fiddleheads

By Lauren Breau, Licensed Acupuncturist

One of the best things about living in Portland is springtime. Yes, it still rains, and yes, sometimes it’s still grayish-blue outside, but with this comes long breaks of sun and the first blooms of the season. One day you walk outside and you find yourself pleasantly bombarded with tulips, crocuses, flowering plum trees, and daffodils.  And, lest we forget, Portland has some of the best rainbows in the country; in fact, after living here for 8 years, I’ve begun to refer to early May as “rainbow season.”

From a Chinese medicine perspective, spring is the time for new beginnings.  It’s the time to clean out the old and bring in the new.  Many people start dietary “cleanses” during the spring.  Also, many of us will clean our living space from top to bottom and refer to it as “spring cleaning.”  Though it’s a total pain sometimes, who doesn’t feel better when the clutter is removed and the windows are free of mud splatter?

Another thing I love about spring is that people leave their houses more often! And, even better, when they do leave their house, they’re often wearing less clothing.  Yippee! The Portlanders I see in the spring are more likely to flirt, to dance, and to laugh!  People fall in love!  How many times have you run into a newly twitterpated couple, lounging in the (slightly damp) green grass of one of our many parks, feeding each other…fiddleheads?

Okay, so maybe not fiddleheads.  But on the topic of fiddleheads…

Fiddleheads evoke springtime. For several weeks in late April or early May, these young spiraled ferns pop up from the ground, mostly in forests that border waterways or places prone to spring flooding. Unless you have someone who knows how to correctly identify fiddleheads, I wouldn’t recommend harvesting them yourself. There are other ferns that resemble fiddleheads, and if you harvest and ingest the wrong species, you could end up with a terrible stomachache.  Not to worry, though – you can get fiddleheads at your local farmer’s market!

Fiddleheads are delicious! Their flavor falls somewhere between fresh spinach and asparagus. From a Chinese nutritional standpoint, fiddleheads are a perfect spring vegetable. They can help your liver “decongest” from a long winter of eating rich, heavy foods. They are also high in calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, and vitamins A, B, and C.  You just can’t go wrong with the fiddlehead!

Fiddleheads should never be eaten raw. They should always be well cooked. Here is one of my favorite ways to prepare them:


1 pound of fiddleheads

1 bunch of red swiss chard (remove toughest 1/3 of stalks, then chop, rinse, and pat dry)

2-3 cloves of garlic, minced

1 sweet onion, chopped

pinch of sea salt

pinch of fresh pepper

olive oil

red pepper to taste

Soak fiddleheads in cold water (with a pinch of salt) for about 5 minutes. Removes the brown leaves by scrubbing gently with fingers, then rinse again. Drain fiddleheads and pat dry.

Saute onions and garlic in olive oil (use sauté pan over medium heat). Add fiddleheads and sauté for about 1 minute.  Add 2 tablespoons of water and cover for one minute.  Add red swiss chard.  Season with salt and pepper.  Continue cooking for five minutes, or until tender to your liking.

Season with red pepper. Serve! Enjoy!