The Fiddlehead Is The World’s Most Magical Vegetable

The “fern-seed” was once thought to have invisibility properties

When I was a child in Vermont, fiddleheads fascinated me. Their tight furls made me think of fairies and elves and other magical woodland activity. Even the name, fiddlehead, sounds like something a mischievous elf might play under the wan glow of a harvest moon to hypnotize a human. The baby ferns are actually the subject of folklore. In the Shakespearean drama “Henry IV, Part 1,” Gadshill the thief talks of magical properties of “fern-seed” being cause to render him invisible.

The “fern-seed” invisibility superstition pops up again in “The Fair Maid of the Inn,” a famous 17th century comedic play by John Fletcher and his co-writers, as well as in Ben Jonson’s “The New Inn.” The best fiddlehead cookbook out there, Fiddleheads & Fairies by Maine-based writer Nannette Richford, includes many allusions to the mysticism behind fiddleheads.

Perhaps the fiddlehead that enchanted me had supernatural abilities indeed.

As the winter gave way to mud season, the fiddleheads would spurt up in bunches, and I would come across thousands of them at a time. I would pile them in my shirt and bring them home, and my mother would fry them in butter, and we would have them with dinner.

Fiddleheads get their name from the wound bow carved into the neck of a violin. When the fronds start to uncurl in late April, they are ready to pick. Eaten alone, they have a slightly metallic taste—many people say they taste a bit like asparagus. I think they taste like the mossy deep woods, but that’s probably just the context of my memory.

They are a forager’s dream, full of antioxidants and a good source of protein, zinc, riboflavin, and vitamins A and C. But not all fiddleheads are created equal. In fact, the University of Maine has published guidelines for picking ostrich fern fiddleheads, including looking for a distinctive groove inside the stem and a brown papery cover over the bright green curl. And this 1985 article in the Orlando Sentinel outlines the concerns about eating the wrong kind of fiddlehead. Neither article recommends eating the nonostrich types of fiddleheads (bracken fiddleheads are commonly eaten in Korean cuisine, though they mainly eat the stem after the fern has matured).

Many foragers urge to err on the safe side. For one, other types of fiddleheads—including ones that look like ostrich ferns— can be poisonous. Other types of fiddleheads have been known to carry carcinogens. And most importantly, the majority cooks insist on taking care to cook fiddleheads long enough. (Boil them twice, or boil them, and then fry or bake them.)

Fiddleheads have an extraordinarily short harvest season, and if you blink you might miss it, so we’re warning you now to mark your calendar to head out into the woods and find yourself some bright green treats. If that’s not a possibility, look out for the forest vegetable to pop up in farmers markets in early spring.

Here are a few good recipes to get you started:

Green Curry with Chicken and Fiddleheads (via Earthy Delights)

Emeril Lagasse’s Fiddlehead Ferns and Angel Hair Pasta (via the Food Network)

Stir-fried Fiddlehead Ferns (via NYT Cooking)

Thai Fried Fiddleheads (via Eat Halifax)


Looking back, the year 1995 seems like such an innocent time. America was in the midst of its longest streak of peace and prosperity. September 11, 2001 was six years away, and the internet didn't seem like much more than a passing fad.

Twenty-four years ago, 18 million U.S. homes had modem-equipped computers, 7 million more than the year before. Most logged in through America Online where they got their email or communicated with random strangers in chat rooms.

According to a Pew Research study that year, only 32% of those who go online say they would miss it "a lot" if no longer available.

Imagine what those poll numbers would look like if the question was asked today.

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"Few see online activities as essential to them, and no single online feature, with the exception of E-Mail, is used with any regularity," the Pew article said. "Consumers have yet to begin purchasing goods and services online, and there is little indication that online news features are changing traditional news consumption patterns."

"Late Night" host David Letterman had Microsoft founder and, at that time the richest man in the world, on his show for an interview in '95 to discuss the "the big new thing."

During the interview Letterman chided Gates about the usefulness of the new technology, comparing it to radio and tape recorders.

Gates seems excited by the internet because it will soon allow people to listen to a baseball game on their computer. To which Letterman smugly replies, "Does radio ring a bell?" to laughter from the crowd.

But Gates presses Letterman saying that the new technology allows you to listen to the game "whenever you want," to which Letterman responds, "Do tape recorders ring a bell?"

Gates then tells Letterman he can keep up with the latest in his favorite hobbies such as cigar smoking or race cars through the internet. Letterman shuts him down saying that he reads about his interests in magazines.

RELATED: Bill Gates has five books he thinks you should read this summer.

The discussion ends with the two laughing over meeting like-minded people in "troubled loner chat room on the internet."

The clip brings to mind a 1994 segment on "The Today Show" where host Bryant Gumbel and Katie Couric have a similar discussion.

"What is internet anyway?" an exasperated Gumball asks. "What do you write to it like mail?"

"It's a computer billboard but it's nationwide and it's several universities all joined together and it's getting bigger and bigger all the time," a producer explains from off-stage.

via The Howard Stern Show / YouTube

Former Secretary of State, first lady, and winner of the popular vote in the 2016 presidential election, Hillary Clinton, sat own for an epic, two-and-a--half hour interview with Howard Stern on his SiriusXM show Wednesday.

She was there to promote "The Book of Gutsy Women," a book about heroic women co-written with her daughter, Chelsea Clinton.

In the far-reaching conversation, Clinton and the self-proclaimed "King of All Media" and, without a doubt, the best interviewer in America discussed everything from Donald Trump's inauguration to her sexuality.

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The healthcare systems in the United States and the United Kingdom couldn't be more different.

The UK's National Health Service is the largest government-run healthcare system in the world and the US's is largest private sector system.

Almost all essential health services in the UK are free, whereas in America cost can vary wildly based on insurance, co pays and what the hospitals and physicians choose to charge.

A medical bill in the US

One of the largest differences is cost. The average person in the UK spends £2,989 ($3915) per year on healthcare (most of which is collected through taxes), whereas the average American spends around $10,739 a year.

So Americans should obviously be getting better care, right? Well, the average life expectancy in the UK is higher and infant mortality rate is lower than that in the US.

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Plus, in the U.S., only 84% of people are covered by private insurance, Medicare or Medicaid. Sixteen percent of the population are forced to pay out of pocket.

In the UK, everyone is covered unless they are visiting the country or an undocumented resident.

Prescription drugs can cost Americans an arm and a leg, but in the UK, prescriptions or either free or capped at £8.60 ($11.27).

via Wikimedia Commons

The one drawback to the NHS system is responsiveness. In the UK people tend to wait longer for inessential surgeries, doctor's appointments, and in emergency rooms. Whereas, the US is ranked as the most responsive country in the world.

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The New York Times printed a fair evaluation of the UK's system:

The service is known for its simplicity: It is free at the point of use to anyone who needs it. Paperwork is minimal, and most patients never see a bill. … No one needs to delay medical treatment until he or she can afford it, and virtually everyone is covered. …

According to data from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the United States spent 17.2 percent of its economic output on health care in 2016, compared with 9.7 percent in Britain. Yet Britain has a higher life expectancy at birth and lower infant mortality.

Citizens in each country have an interesting perspective on each other's healthcare systems. UK citizens think it's inhumane for Americans have to pay through the nose when they're sick or injured. While Americans are skeptical of socialist medicine.

A reporter from Politics Joe hit the streets of London and asked everyday people what they think Americans pay for healthcare and they were completely shocked.