AUTHOR: Julia TITLE: Quintessential Spring: Fiddlehead Ferns DATE: 5/27/2009 04:16:00 AM ----- BODY:
Though summer unofficially started this past weekend, the farmers’ markets and produce aisles still say spring. I don’t let the season pass without getting at least one taste of those wild ingredients that only grow this time of year – ramps, fiddleheads, morels and shad roe. And, of course, I fill up on artichokes and asparagus. Even though they are available year-round, their flavors peak now.

My favorite spring mélange is asparagus with morels and fiddleheads. Earthy, sweet, crunchy and creamy flavors that marry perfectly. Morels are conical shaped mushrooms that grow in pine forests, and spring fields after a winter forest fire. Occasionally they grow in my garden, too.

The fiddleheads are tightly coiled ferns that haven’t unfurled yet. The coils push through the soil trapping all sorts of dirt in them. This makes cleaning them a bit of a challenge – I soak them in several changes of water, transforming them from murky brown to bright green. They are rumored to have toxins in them which necessitate a par-boiling.

I prepare the fiddleheads simply: after soaking them in three changes of water, I boil them for 2 minutes in salted water. Let them cool in an ice bath to lock in the bright green color. I then sauté them with olive oil and garlic. I serve them with asparagus or as a side dish for salmon. They have a creamy, nutty and earthy texture and a nice crunch too!

Up next: Asparagus Vichyssoise with Morels and Fiddleheads.


----- COMMENT: AUTHOR:Blogger adele DATE:5/27/2009 07:21:00 AM I've seen fiddleheads at Whole Foods, but I've never tried preparing them before. Maybe it's time to give it a shot? ----- COMMENT: AUTHOR:Anonymous Lydia (The Perfect Pantry) DATE:5/27/2009 08:00:00 AM I feel very fortunate to have both morels and fiddleheads on my land. Not many of either one, so it's fun to combine them as you've done. ----- COMMENT: AUTHOR:Blogger LC DATE:5/27/2009 09:56:00 AM Shocking the fiddleheads w/ cold water is a good idea. I canned some the other day so this wasn't an option and they've lost some of that bright green color but what a treat in any event. Wish we had ramps out here on the West Coast. ----- COMMENT: AUTHOR:Blogger Elra DATE:5/27/2009 10:46:00 AM Fiddlehead really remind me of my childhood food. My mom used to saute this veggy with tons of chilies in it. Here in America, I was shock to found out how expensive it is. Your dish is simple and and delicious. I like that. ----- COMMENT: AUTHOR:Anonymous noble pig DATE:5/27/2009 04:59:00 PM One day I will try fiddleheads, I've never seen them offered here. ----- COMMENT: AUTHOR:Blogger Heather DATE:5/27/2009 08:18:00 PM i've never had or seen fiddlehead ferns (i've heard about them, though). i really want to try them - i'm hoping they'll be at the FM sometime soon!! ----- COMMENT: AUTHOR:Blogger Julia DATE:5/27/2009 09:44:00 PM adele - you should! And prices have come down this week too.

Lydia -- lucky you!

LC -- canning is a great idea! I just bought some more at the market, so I'll try that.

Elra -- can you give me more details? I love the idea of saute-ing with chilies.

noble pig -- I wonder if it's an east coast thing?

Heather -- they sell them at Whole Foods, so maybe check there, too. ----- COMMENT: AUTHOR:Blogger T.W. Barritt at Culinary Types DATE:5/28/2009 07:20:00 AM I'm just starting to learn about foraging for wild foodstuffs - I'm a little hesitant to eat anything from my lawn! The fiddleheads look wonderful - so bright and green! ----- COMMENT: AUTHOR:Blogger Julia DATE:5/28/2009 09:37:00 AM T.W. -- I am too. I'm always worried that I'm picking the wrong variety. ----- COMMENT: AUTHOR:Blogger Tomm DATE:5/29/2009 12:24:00 PM Are all ferns OK to eat as fiddleheads? I've got a few different kinds of ferns around, so just wondering. (Too late this year anyway, though, as they're all past fiddlehead stage.) ----- COMMENT: AUTHOR:Anonymous Rose's Lime DATE:5/29/2009 12:56:00 PM For all those Fiddlehead dabblers I can only say take the par-boiling seriously. The second time I prepared them at home I thought, meh... why bother. Believe you-me... NOT WORTH THE RISK.

After that experience I didn't eat fiddleheads again for maybe 7 years till this past spring which, I suppose, is the real tragedy. ----- COMMENT: AUTHOR:Anonymous Sylvie, Rappahannock Cook & Kitchen Gardener DATE:5/29/2009 04:39:00 PM I've never eaten fiddleheads either - morels, we've got plenty in the woods, although this was not a very good year, and the season is past for us in the Northern Virginia Piedmont. I have the same question as Tom's: is this one species only, or any fern that forms "fiddlehaeds" is a candidate for the blaching pot? ----- COMMENT: AUTHOR:Blogger Julia DATE:5/29/2009 05:03:00 PM Rose's Lime -- Thanks for the cautionary tale! Glad you've gotten over your fear of fiddleheads.

Tomm and Sylvie -- I do not believe that all fiddleheads are edible. I found an interesting article:

The term "fiddleheads" refers to the unfurling young sprouts of ferns. Although many species of ferns are edible as fiddleheads, Ostrich Ferns are the best. They are edible only in their early growth phase first thing in the spring.

PLEASE NOTE: Most or all other fern species are either unpalatable (too tough or not very tasty) or contain high levels or carcinogens. Ostrich Ferns are the safest in that they contain the least amount of these. However, do not eat large quantities of even Ostrich ferns, as the carcinogens do accumulate over the short term. ----- COMMENT: AUTHOR:Blogger Lori Lynn DATE:5/30/2009 04:12:00 PM Sounds like a perfect recipe to taste the true flavors.
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