Monday, May 31, 2010
Fiddleheads are young, unrolled ferns that would grow into leafy, tall ferns should they not be harvested for human consumption. But, when picked when they are young and just beginning to sprout out of the ground, the closely spiraled plants are tremendously delicious. When cooked correctly, they have a wonderfully tender yet crisp texture and a flavor that I find pleasantly rich and nutty. I just love them and pick them up whenever I can find them.
Fiddleheads are not cultivated, but are harvested in rural areas. In the northeast US, they are harvested in the spring only. They are available at green markets and occasionally at grocery stores. If you are able to find them, choose fiddleheads that are small in size (less than 1 1/2" in diameter) and have closely spiraled stems. There is often a brownish skin covering parts of the fiddleheads, which is fine, as that can easily be removed when washing.
As an additional incentive to cook with these tasty little ferns, Agriculture Canada has reported that fiddleheads contain twice as many antioxidant properties as blueberries, which are often touted as the antioxidant kings. They also contain high levels of omega-3 fatty acids and dietary fiber.
When preparing fiddleheads, be sure to take care and be thorough when cleaning them. Because they are wound so tightly and have so many crevices and grooves, a fair amount of dirt and grit can get caught between the layers. I always soak and rinse the them in cold water twice and then trim off any brown ends and pull off any of the leftover brown coating.
Sauteed Garlicky Fiddleheads
2 side dish servings
1/2 lb cleaned fiddlehead ferns
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 tablespoon butter
1 minced garlic clove
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper
1/2 tablespoon lemon juice
salt & black pepper to taste
Drain and pat cleaned fiddleheads on a paper towel or kitchen towel until dry. Heat olive oil and butter in a skillet over med/high heat and add fiddleheads. Saute about 3-4 mins until starting to brown. Add minced garlic and crushed red pepper and saute another minute or so until the garlic is starting to become fragrant and the fiddleheads are cooked through but are still bright green and have a bite to them. Squeeze the lemon juice over the fiddleheads and season to taste with salt and pepper.