A very exciting event occurred a few evenings ago. As I was driving down the road, I saw a sign in front of one of the neighbor’s houses that read, “Fiddleheads – $3.” Translated, this means that someone was selling the coiled bases of the ostrich fern for $3 per pound. I bought three pounds. For those who don’t know, fiddleheads are a delicacy in these parts. In early spring, those who are interested head out into the wetter parts of the woods and collect unopened ferns. If you cook them up, they’re really great tasting with a texture something like asparagus. This is what they look like in their raw state.
Please don’t ask me how these unopened ferns became popular to eat because I won’t have a good answer for you. What I do know is that the area we live in up here in Maine comes alive around this time of year. It’s only been a few weeks since the snow has disappeared and within those few weeks, all sorts of plant life has emerged. From what I’ve gathered, these fiddleheads grow best around the wet banks of streams and rivers. I have yet to see any live ones in person though because all I can seem to find are the fuzzy variety of fern. Those are definitely inedible.
It’s important to cook fiddleheads thoroughly. Without proper cleaning and cooking, these little treasures can cause food poisoning. I haven’t exactly yet been able to establish what causes the poisoning, but there have been cases reported because of undercooking. In this post, I’ll tell you what’s recommended as far as cooking and I’ll also tell you what I do. I’ve eaten fiddleheads for the past two nights and previous years and I’m still alive and healthy.
I put together a quick recipe for today’s post. If you look around online, you’ll see a number of very rudimentary recipes for fiddleheads. Basically, you can get away with soaking them, rinsing them and boiling them for 15 minutes and then just eating them, but I like to think we’re a tad bit more fun than that. This is why I recorded what I did last night as I was putting together a giant plate of these things.
3/4 Pound Raw Fiddleheads, Cleaned
Ground Black Pepper
3 Tablespoons Salted Butter
1/2 Large Sweet Onion, Chopped
1 Teaspoon Garlic, Minced
1/2 Teaspoon Red Pepper Flakes
1 Tablespoon White Balsamic Vinegar
1 Teaspoon Honey
Again, you can cook these any way you want, as long as you boil/heat the ferns for at least 15 minutes. What I’m going to share below is my process, which I’ve found to give me a really tasty dish.
Clean the Fiddleheads
Fill a large pot with water in your sink. Then, place all the fiddleheads in the pot and keep the water running. Let the brown papery fern coatings flow over the edge of the pot. Keep stirring the ferns around with your hands until no more husks flow over the edge. After that, dump the ferns into a colander to strain them.
Boil the Ferns
Fill the pot back up with four quarts of water. Add one tablespoon of salt to the pot and bring the water to a boil over high heat. This is just like what you would do if you were cooking pasta. Next, when the water is boiling, add the ferns to the pot and let them cook for ten minutes. Use a wooden spoon to stir every once in a while. When finished, strain the ferns through a colander.
Fry the Fiddlehead & Other Ingredients
Warm a large skillet over medium-high heat on your stove top. Then, once the pan is to temperature, add the butter and let it melt. Then, add the fiddleheads, onion, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, 1/4 teaspoon of ground black pepper, garlic, red pepper flakes, vinegar and honey. Stir and fry these ingredients for ten minutes.
If you’ll notice, I didn’t brown the onions first. This is because I like to simply soften them up a bit so their consistency and texture match the fiddleheads.
When finished, remove the skillet from the heat and you’re done.
Plate & Serve
That’s about it. Wasn’t that easy? To plate, simply divide the fiddleheads between bowls or plates and enjoy. I’ve found that they don’t need anything else, but you can be the judge of that. I would guess that folks might want to season to taste with salt and pepper and perhaps even add some more vinegar.
If you come across this type of delicacy and do decide to cook them up and if you follow this recipe, please let me know your thoughts. I’d like to hear them. Thanks for reading!