The Collaborative International Dictionary
fiddlehead \fid"dle*head`\ n.
any of several tall ferns of northern temperate regions having graceful arched fronds and sporophylls resembling ostrich plumes.
Syn: ostrich fern, shuttlecock fern, Matteuccia struthiopteris, Pteretis struthiopteris, Onoclea struthiopteris.
New World fern ( Osmunda cinnamonea) having woolly cinnamon-colored spore-bearing fronds in early spring later surrounded by green fronds, called also fiddlehead fern; the early uncurling fronds are edible, and sometimes considered as a vegetable delicacy.
Syn: cinnamon fern, fiddlehead fern, Osmunda cinnamonea.
(Naut.) an ornament on a ship's bow, curved like the volute or scroll at the head of a violin. Sometimes it serves the function of a billhead.
Left on the plant, each fiddlehead would unroll into a new frond ( circinate vernation). As fiddleheads are harvested early in the 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 fatty acids, and are high in iron and fibre. Certain varieties of fiddleheads have been shown to be carcinogenic. (See bracken poisoning)
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.