Wednesday, May 13, 2009


Talk about the ultimate in eating seasonally and locally! Fiddleheads, the unfurled fronds of the ostrich fern (Matteuccia struthiopteris) , are available for only a few weeks in the Spring and, as far as I know, are not cultivated, but harvested wild. You have to be in the right place at the right time. Luckily for us, New England is the right place and right now is the right time. So, as part of Linda's birthday supper, I decided to cook up a batch.

Fiddleheads are a rather mild, earthy vegetable - something akin to asparagus. They lend themselves to a variety of preparations - boiled, steamed, sauted - and can take just about any type of seasoning or sauce. Before you cook them however, they should be thoroughly washed to remove the brown papery "scales" (I wonder what the botanical term is), dirt, and grit. Ends should be trimmed.

For tonight's dinner, I blanched the fiddleheads in salted, boiling water for about 2 minutes, then shocked them in ice water, drained, and allowed to air dry. I then sauted them in olive oil with some garlic and salt until just tender, deglazed in a splash of white wine and finished by tossing them with a balsamic vinaigrette (and I intended, but forgot, to serve them with a dash of red pepper flakes and some fresh-grated parmesan). They were the perfect complement to the grilled rib eye and Israeli couscous with Swiss chard.


Linda B. said...

And best of all they were yummy!! Thanks for the great birthday dinner!

Doug Taron said...

It's been years since I've eaten fiddleheads. I even have ostrich ferns growing in my yard. Somehow I never notice them until they're too far along. Thanks for the cooking tips.

Tamar said...

I, too, had the fiddlehead impulse, and learned the hard way that all ferns, not just ostrich ferns, go through a stage before they fully open where they have that nice little spiral head. I'm here to tell you that the wrong kind of fern tastes awful -- nasty and bitter. Probably not fatal, though, as I'm here to tell the tale.