One of the more bizarre spring vegetables are the spring shoots of fiddlehead ferns. They are called “fiddleheads” because they resemble the tightly curled ornamentation at the end of stringed instruments such as violins. Although fiddleheads can be foraged throughout the Berkshires, there are many varieties of both edible - and inedible - ferns so I purchase mine from local grocers, who have them available for a short time in the spring. They taste like a cross between asparagus and baby spinach. Fiddleheads must never be eaten raw but they are simple to make – and you can cook them with any method you would use for asparagus. They are especially delicious steamed or sautéed.
1 pound fiddlehead ferns, brown stem ends trimmed off
1 tablespoon salt
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 teaspoon butter
2 garlic cloves, finely minced
Salt and pepper
Bring 2 quarts of water and the tablespoon of salt to a boil in a large pot.
Swish the trimmed fiddleheads in several changes to cold water to remove any dirt or grit, rubbing off any brown spots or papery brown husk.
Cook the fiddleheads in the boiling water for 10 minutes. This will help remove any bitterness from the fiddleheads. Plunge into cold water to stop the cooking then drain them and pat them dry with paper towels.
In a large frying pan, heat the oil and butter over medium heat. Sauté the fiddleheads in the oil/butter for about a minute until they are light brown, then add the garlic and continue cooking until the garlic is soft. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
You could also serve cooked fiddleheads dressed with a hollandaise sauce, or with a dash of Asian-flavored Krazy for Kazu Sesame Dressing!