Friday, June 3, 2011

is my rome burning

And fiddleheads! I had best talk about fiddleheads while they're still in season.


Just as spring-signaling as spruce tips, fiddleheads are young ferns that have just popped up out of the ground and haven't had the chance to become big tough grown-up ferns who can stay up as late as they want even on Wednesdays. They are the veal of ferns, basically. Little baby innocent ferns.

And they are delicious.

The taste, I don't know how to describe the taste - "green," "kind of asparagus like," "spring-like." Go with those. They're not bitter like broccoli raab, they're not cabbagey like Brussels sprouts. They have a pretty mellow flavor.

But they do take some handling. You want to wash them, chop the woody end off, and blanch them, before proceeding with cooking.

For one thing, they come up out of the ground all tightly spiraled, and those curled-up leaves can pick up a lot of dirt on the journey. You want to wash them well, and wash off the little brown flakes. I actually combine this with blanching, as you can see. Although the blanching is partly to fix their color and improve their texture, the blanching and washing are also for safety: coming out of the ground as they do, fiddleheads can pick up a lot of germs. Theoretically I suppose they could even pick up insects, but unlike morels, I've never found an insect on a fiddlehead when cleaning it. They can absolutely be a home for bacteria, though, so wash and blanch.

I should have chopped the woody root end off before blanching, but forgot. Those mottled brown ends you see in the photo - chop those off.

Once they're blanched, you can cook them however you like - put them on pizza, serve them with pasta, whatever - but I usually saute them in a little butter or bacon fat, salt them well, and serve them as a side dish.

Just don't FILL UP on fiddleheads - apparently they can make you sick if you eat a ton of them. I've never known this to happen, and I'm curious if the toxicity is really relevant or if reported illnesses were from poorly washed fiddleheads that carried bacteria - I'm just telling you what I've read.

1 comment:

  1. Fiddleheads are my favourite Spring vegetable. When I was a kid, we used to pick them wild and I remember filling an entire garbage bag with all the fiddleheads we picked. We ate a ton of them every year and never got sick. My mom used to stir fry them with pieces of bacon and a splash of shoyu.