Fiddlehead ferns are simply ferns that have not unrolled into their full ferny glory. There are a handful of species that are edible (most common: Bracken, although Ostrich are more widely available in my neck of the New England Woods), and have been part of few major culinary traditions (Native American, then hence later on New England's, and Asian). They pop up and quickly over a few weeks turn into the less edible ferns you see during your nature hike. They are not farmed, but foraged. Yes, even the ones you find at Whole Foods.
This leads to a particular quandry. Although growing up on the forest floor near a burbling brook might sound idylic (Figure 1.aa), what it actually makes these is an amusement park for microbes, which in turn will use your GI tract as a roller-coaster ride. Fiddleheads should be washed and cooked thoroughly by all but the bravest of gastronomes. The University of Maine suggests boiling for 10 minutes or steaming for 20, which might be a little much for those of us who want to taste some of the more delicate flavors of these little guys, but not a bad idea if you're foraging them on your own. Today's foraging spot was yesterday's deer bathroom.
- One pound of fiddlehead ferns, generously rinsed. This is not a recipe to try if your town is on a water ban. Hose those ameoba down the drain!
- About a tablespoon of unsalted butter
- A big splash of white wine. I used a reisling to balance out the other flavors in the dish.
- Salt. When I made this recipe, I decided to uber-Spring it up with some weird coarse-salt-and-dried-flowers mixture made by these people. The attending from the last post brought over the other day in exchange for the notary services of my girlfriend. Sometimes truth is stranger than fiction.