Ross Murray's Border Report
Ross Murray
is a freelance writer living in Stanstead, Quebec. You can reach him at
Posted 05.25.08
Stanstead, Quebec


Spring ferns are to eat, eh?

STANSTEAD, QC | One of the culinary highlights of spring is the arrival of fiddleheads. It's an enthusiasm not shared by all. More than once I've gone to the cash at the grocery store only to have the clerk ask, "What are those?"

"Fiddleheads," I explain.

"What are fiddleheads?" she'll ask.

"Baby ferns," I reply.

"Ewww," she'll say.

I don't even get to the part where I explain that fiddleheads taste a bit like Brussels sprouts.

Well, I like them, anyway.

So I was a bit shocked last week when I saw the detailed health warning taped to the produce case by the fiddleheads at my grocery store. I can't remember the exact wording but it went something like this:

"Health Canada warns that fiddleheads may contain toxins and are all-around nasty little vegetables that you'd be a fool to ingest. They've been known to cause gastroenteritis, bleeding of the gums, sterility in mice, and the bitter collapse of your most cherished dreams."

Really, you shouldn't eat fiddleheads. In fact, don't even look at them. Just back away slowly.

'Fiddlehead' rhymes with 'fiddledead.'

If you foolishly disregard this suggestion and insist on eating fiddleheads, you must ensure that the fiddleheads are prepared in a safe and solemn manner, as follows:

Trim all bits of brown from the fiddlehead.

Soak fiddleheads in a solution of water, vinegar, boric acid, and 100-proof vodka for 3.5 days.

Enlist the aid of the spiritual leader of your choice to cast out the demon toxins from the fiddleheads.

Boil or steam until the fiddleheads can no longer be considered to be in a solid state but rather a sort of fern slurry.

Ingest as quickly as possible.

Toxic effects usually occur within twelve hours, ten hours if you're feeling especially paranoid.

You've been warned. Bon appetit.

My memory may exaggerate but it was certainly a dire warning for a vegetable, and I think highly unfair. I'm sure the double-chocolate cheesecake two aisles over is more lethal in the long run but I didn't see any warnings there.

Which made me think that if they're going to go this nuts on fiddleheads, there should be warnings on other foods as well:

Potato chips

Warning: Potato chips have sharp edges. When eating, be sure to insert chips horizontally as inserting vertically may cause damage to your upper palate. Do not fling potato chips at people as you may cause lacerations or put out an eye.


Warning: Eating more than five hamburgers in a sitting may cause feelings of discomfort and heaviness, pressure in the abdominal area and loss of appetite. Should these symptoms occur, the customer should refrain from eating for several hours.

Ice cream

Warning: The ingestion of ice cream can cause episodes of cranioglaciosis. Symptoms will include an intense pain behind the eyes and the impulse to shout out "Brain freeze! Brain freeze!" to nearby companions. To avoid occurrence, customers should raise the temperature of their ice cream to above the freezing mark before eating.


Warning: Like all spheroid fruit, apples can roll easily. Do not store apples on the floor as these could create a falling hazard, albeit with slapstick comic effect.


Warning: Lobster must be cooked before consuming. Eating live lobster can result in serious tissue damage. Kill lobster by steaming or submerging in boiling water. Lobsters should not be killed with firearms, by poison, or through general neglect. Do not eat shells. Do not let children under three play with live lobsters. Do not let children under three watch you submerge lobster in boiling water as this may result in severe psychological damage and ridiculously expensive therapy.


Warning: Do not ingest seeds, as this may result in a watermelon growing in your stomach. While this has never been scientifically proven, it's never been scientifically not proven. Better safe than sorry.


Warning: Do not eat stick.