Each day a new plant seems to be sprouting. Yesterday I noticed several fiddlehead ferns starting to come up. Fiddleheads are a spring delicacy. They appear on menus and in markets in New England especially from about May through early July. What exactly are these deep green, coiled vegetables, though? Fiddleheads are actually young fern fronds that have not yet opened up. They must be picked during a two-week window before the fern unfurls. Fiddleheads are named for their appearance, which resembles the scroll at the head or top of a fiddle. The ostrich fern is the species that produces these edible shoots, which have a unique texture but taste a bit like asparagus or okra. Fiddleheads can be consumed raw or cooked. One recipe is:
pinch of salt
Parkay butter spray
Preparation:Pretty simple. Take your cleaned fiddleheads, and put them in a pan with a splash of water. Bring to a boil, then shut off the heat source and cover pan. Let stand for about 5 minutes. Then, drain off excess water. There you go. Add a pinch of salt and a spray of butter (we use the Parkay spray, but use real butter if you want). Basically, cook and use like asparagus. Makes a wicked "cream of" soup. Good for one or two meals a year, as a way to teach your kids how to eat stuff that grows wild, in season.
Ingredients:1/2 pound Fiddlehead Ferns
12 oz applewood smoked bacon
1 medium onion
1 large clove garlic
1/4 cup dry white wine (I used Sauvignon Blanc)
Salt and pepper
Preparation:I started by preparing the ferns by blanching them in boiling water for 3-4 minutes roiling boil followed by a cold water bath. Cut up the bacon into 1 inch pieces and cook over medium heat. Once the bacon is getting nice and crispy and is about five minutes from finishing, saute the ferns in a large tablespoon of butter in another pan over medium-high heat. Once the bacon’s done and the ferns have been cooking for three minutes, toss in another dollop of butter and add the garlic (chopped). At this point, remove the bacon, pour out about 2/3 of the rendered fat and then toss the chopped onion in the rest of the bacon fat over high heat. Watch this carefully as the onions will burn quickly. Keep stirring the onions while watching the ferns and garlic. When the garlic is starting to brown, pour in the wine and let it reduce. The onions should be done by now so go ahead and take them out before they burn. As the wine reduces, you may want to add a bit more butter as a thickener. Transfer the ferns and garlic to a plate and top with salt, pepper, bacon, and onions. It’s a pretty filling dish by itself, or you could serve it alongside a piece of grilled meat, like a lamb leg steak.
While walking through the woods I gained an appreciation for how many people lived in Grand Marais a hundred years ago. Everywhere I walked I found artifacts. Most of the items in the woods have been there for 70-90 years.