Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Funky spring veggies: Fiddlehead ferns

I went for a walk in the Amherst woods yesterday while the rain took a break for a few hours. It was so green! There are great hiking trails here at the seven mile-wide Mount Holyoke Range State Park.

Fiddlehead ferns are in season now here in New England, but they're around for only a few weeks. They grow near water and are ready for harvesting around the first week in May. Fiddleheads aren't a specific type of fern - the name refers to the shape of the budding unfurled fronds.

My sister laughed at me, foraging for fiddleheads in the woods like some crazy backwoods mountain person. I'd never eaten them before and found some recipes online. I sauteed mine with garlic and butter and was surprised how good they are. Kind of like asparagus. I plan on harvesting more of these little delicacies to freeze and use later in cream-based soup.

Fiddleheads are great with Hollandaise sauce. You can also use them in quiche. Here's a recipe that Emeril Lagasse made up:

Morel Mushroom and Fiddlehead Fern Ragout

  • 1 1/2 pounds fiddlehead ferns
  • 2 shallots, minced
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1/2 pound fresh morels, trimmed and rinsed well
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3/4 cup chicken stock
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon chopped chives
  • 1 tablespoon chopped parsley
  • Salt and pepper
  • Parmesan curls, for garnish


In a saucepan, bring 1 1/2 quarts of salted water to a boil. Add fiddleheads and return to a boil. Using a slotted spoon, transfer fiddleheads to an ice bath and chill. Drain and pat dry, removing as much of the outer brown, tissue-like membrane as possible.

In a skillet saute shallots in butter until softened, about 2 minutes. Add thyme, morels, and garlic and continue to cook until morels have softened and given up their liquid, about 3 minutes. Continue to cook until almost all liquid is evaporated, about 2 more minutes. Add chicken stock and cook until reduced by half. Add fiddleheads and cook 2 minutes, add cream, chives, and parsley, and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste. Serve immediately, garnished with Parmesan curls.

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