Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Veggie Wednesday: 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

Fiddlehead Quiche

1 c  milk
1/2 c  light cream
3   large eggs
1/2 t salt
1/4 t pepper
1 clove garlic-minced
2 T green onions-sliced
1 c  grated cheese-Swiss or Gruyere
18   fiddlehead crosiers, cooked
2 slices ham-chopped
grated nutmeg, to taste
1    8" pastry shell, unbaked

Beat milk, cream and eggs well. Add salt, pepper, garlic and onions.
Sprinkle half of the cheese in the bottom of the pastry shell.
Arrange fiddleheads and ham over the cheese.
Pour in the egg mixture, add the remaining cheese, and grate fresh nutmeg over the top.
Bake at 375 degrees F for 30 minutes, or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.

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.


Unknown said...

My husband introduced me to fiddlehead ferns when we were first married. I think of them as a cross between an asparagus and an artichoke. Unfortunately, since then my husband has become (or maybe always was?) one of those affected by the toxins in the fern. Now he refuses to eat them (with good reason). However, you've reminded me that he's out of town in the next few days, so maybe I'll splurge on them for myself! They are a great culinary sign of spring, no matter what.


kat said...

I've had them on soft shell crab sandwiches & it was wonderful

Anonymous said...

I haven't ever tried fiddlehead ferns before. They look so elegant, and your description of them is great, I guess I'll need to find some :)

Anonymous said...