It’s that time of year again, the small window in which Vermont’s forests are flooded with the curling fronds of ferns known as fiddleheads. A beauty to behold in the woods, these ferns are also pretty darn tasty. Usually found bordering lakes, streams, and bogs, fiddleheads can also be found in markets for about a week or so in the areas in which they grow (northern areas of America as well as southern Asia, Austrailia, and New Zealand), and can be ordered through specialty purveyors and websites.
Chock full of Vitamin A, fiber, and iron, these seasonal treats are definitely worth trying out if you ever see them in your neck of the woods. (I advise you to only eat something picked out of the wilderness if the person who picked them REALLY knows their stuff, of course. Certain ferns may not be as wonderful for the human digestive system as fiddleheads.)
And what to do with these pretty green discs, you ask? I’ll give you a couple of hints: They should not be eaten raw (I usually blanch them first, as suggested in the recipe below), and they taste a lot like a nuttier version of asparagus. I always clean the fiddleheads very well; remove any brown papery detritus away from them, trim the stem end off, and give them a good rinse in cold water. Here’s one idea to enjoy them for what they are, a glorious sign of springtime in Vermont.
4 cups fiddlehead ferns, cleaned well
1 tablespoon olive oil
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon fresh thyme, chopped
Salt and pepper, to taste
Bring a medium sized pot of water (about 2 quarts) to boil. In the meantime, prepare your ingredients.
When the water comes to a boil, add the fiddleheads to the pot. Turn the heat to medium high and simmer for about 5 minutes, until the fiddleheads are crisp-tender.
Towards the end of the fiddleheads’ simmering time, add the oil and the minced garlic to a large saute pan. Sweat the garlic over medium-high heat, then add the fiddleheads when they are done blanching. (Be careful adding the wet fiddleheads to the pan, as water + hot oil = splattering.) Stir the fiddleheads and the garlic in the pan and cook until the fiddleheads are as tender as you want them and/or the garlic is cooked as you like it. Remove the pan from the heat, squeeze as much lemon juice as you want into the pan, add the thyme, salt, and pepper, and stir. Enjoy!
What are your favorite signs of spring in the produce section?