Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Fiddlehead Ferns

Raw Fiddlehead Ferns
Raw Fiddlehead Ferns

Fiddlehead ferns, so named for the shape they grow into, are a delicious addition to your spring vegetable repertoire. Similar in flavor to asparagus, with a slightly bitter finish akin to broccoli rabe, they have a wonderful texture and bite to them and have become something I look forward to each year.

Before you dive head-first into a patch of sprouting ferns, there are a few bits of information that will be beneficial to you.

Some fiddlehead ferns are classified as 'toxic' and supposedly the ostrich fern is the least so. The general consensus is that they can cause gastrointestinal upset if too many are eaten. I haven't had problems with them, though, so I feel that the ostrich ferns are just fine. Go easy if you're trying them for the first time just to be on the safe side.

One thing you don't want to do is forage for them yourself unless you are very skilled at foraging. Look at Whole Foods or local farmers' markets during the month of May and you will likely find decent specimens. They can sometimes come with a sort of covering on them that resembles very fine garlic skin, but brownish in color. Simply give them a good rinse in clear water and you should be good to go.

Cooked Fiddlehead Ferns
Cooked Fiddlehead Ferns

Although they can be eaten raw in salads, I've not done so, preferring the change of texture once cooked. If you boil them, do so for 5 to 8 minutes only, any longer renders them mushy and flavorless. I like them sauteed in butter and garlic with a bit of sea salt and a squeeze of lemon juice, but I've also had them in a quiche with ham and cheese. Gently coddled by the cooking egg and cream, they are kept from overcooking and still have a nice crunch not unlike that of a lightly cooked fresh green bean.

Quiche with Fiddlehead Ferns

Whatever you do with them, don't limit yourself - they are really something everyone should try once and I promise you it's worth it.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Minnie Rose Lovgreen's Recipe for Raising Chickens: The Main Thing is to Keep Them Happy

From the time I first read any one of the Little House on the Prairie books I've wanted to live on a small farm and raise chickens (and goats and bees). As fate would have it, I never left the city my family moved to when I was 4 and the only glimpses of farm life I had as a child were the summers I spent in Indiana and Michigan.

Recently when I picked up raw milk at a farm nearby I saw a very large fenced yard filled with chickens. They were scratching at the dirt and clucking at one another. Once in a while one would take off running and stop just as abruptly as she'd started. It reminded me of how much I wanted to raise my own birds.

When my copy of Minnie Rose Lovgreen's Recipe for Raising Chickens came in the mail, I promptly sat down and read it from cover to cover. It turned out to be one of the most entertaining how-to books I've ever read. I giggled many times at the thought of Minnie saying these things to Nancy Rekow, who wrote them down and created this book to share Minnie's invaluable advice with everyone.

Straight-forward and to the point, but with a very sweet and witty tone, Minnie teaches how to raise chickens from which are best for laying to what they should be fed and how to treat the chicks when they find their way out of their egg homes.

This book takes the reader back to a simpler time when antibiotics were not used and chickens were fed what they wanted and raised in a gentle and wholesome way. It renewed in me the desire to raise my own brood of hens!

Even if chicken raising isn't something you've thought about doing, you just might feel differently after reading this. Pick up a copy and share it with your children, too - the simple line drawings are quaint and dear and the entire book was written by hand - no fancy modern typeface here!

Minnie Rose Lovgreen's Recipe for Raising Chickens, Edited by Nancy Rekow & Chaya Siegelbaum, Illustrated by Elizabeth Hutchison Zwick and published by NW Trillium Press is available in bookstores nationwide and online.

Book provided by NW Trillium Press.