Sunday, June 9, 2013

A Primer on Fiddlehead Ferms

Since I first learned they are edible, I have long been fascinated with fiddlehead ferns. We find them at the Wegman's quite often, but usually in a dreadful state, and my counterpart has been reluctant to deal with them. Then, while he was visiting the Pittsburgh office of his employer, he posted a photo of his dinner one night that included fiddlehead ferns. I stepped up my campaign, and last night I got them.

Ferns are an interesting plant. While the young shoots are edible, as the plant continues to grown, the fern becomes toxic to humans. They must be harvested when they are still in that coiled, fiddlehead shape. While dirt is not a problem with this vegetable, storage is. We have seen many ferns on display that are already on their way to rot and ruin. When selecting fiddleheads at the grocery store, look for a nice healthy green color, and avoid anything that looks black. If you see a lot of black in the selection, best to put off your fern experience, or ask the produce manager to check the back for some fresher specimens.

Fiddleheads are easy to clean as long as they are fresh and healthy

In application, fiddleheads can be used the way you would use asparagus. They are similar in taste, but their round, coiled shape gives then a distinct mouth feel that I find preferable to asparagus. They are also more bitter, but this can be cut with butter and cream in the cooking process.

Paired with mushrooms in a succulent little medley
For our fiddleheads, my counterpart made a medley of the ferns with mushrooms, shallot, leek, and garlic with some fresh basil and oregano, and just a little sage. Using these bitter elements to season an already bitter vegetable accented its natural flavor when other elements were added to mellow it out.

Mmmmmmmm butter

He cooked them on the stovetop, using a little wine, a little cream, and a lot of butter. The end result was tender mushrooms, crisp fiddleheads, and lots of buttery goodness. Served with bread alongside to absorb some of that fat, this dish was so flavorful, I had three servings.

I single-handedly finished off most of this

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