Have you ever seen a fiddlehead fern? Spotted them, maybe, at the market or in your natural foods grocery store? Perhaps you’re one of those people I admire who has eaten them and who knows they are simply very young ostrich ferns, foraged in spring before getting a chance to unfurl their fronds. When I first stocked fiddlehead ferns at the People’s Food Co-op a couple weeks ago I was, to quote F. Scott Fitzgerald, “simultaneously enchanted and repelled by the inexhaustible variety of (plant) life.” They look like little green aliens. They look like headless snails. They look like the Incredible Hulk’s cochlea. But guess what? They are food. Tasty food, too.
Shamefully, I’m bringing you this recipe a couple weeks too late. Most if not all the ferns in our Michigan woods have reached maturity by this point and you’d be hard pressed to find these little treasures in stores. Please accept my apologies for my tardiness and keep the little guys in mind next April!
sauted fiddlehead ferns with lemon
Adapted from Norma’s Journal
a big handful of fiddlehead ferns
1 tablespoon of butter
juice of 1 lemon
salt and pepper
Wash your fiddleheads well and trim the tails.
Boil for about 5 minutes and drain. Note: the fiddleheads gave off a very interesting smell as they boiled. Some might call it loamy. Others might call it swamp-like. I thought it smelled of the earth and loved it. You decide.
Heat butter in a pan and add fiddleheads. Saute for a minute or two.
Transfer to your serving bowl. Toss with lemon juice (I didn’t use all the juice in my lemon; as my mother would say, use your nursing judgement).
Add salt and pepper and serve warm. These fiddleheads provided an interesting and conversation-sparking side dish to the pot pie shared with my siblings. We agreed they tasted like a mild hybrid of asparagus and artichokes, not nearly as alien a taste as their appearance would suggest. If you’re so lucky to spot some late-season stragglers at the market, pick ’em up and give them a go!
Special thanks to Mary Lew and Lisa for suggesting I do a post on fiddleheads!