Friday, April 9, 2010

Fiddlehead Ferns

Who are interested in these cute little nibbles?
  • The home cooks who are willing to try unique ingredients in their daily cooking
  • Chef's who like to showcase gourmet items on menus during the peak season of April - May
  • Food enthusiasts who do not mind paying for the experience- they cost around $6 and up per pound
There maybe a few downsides to Fiddlehead Ferns-
  • They do not present an attractive presentation when prepared
  • Kids may play with them at the table
  • Are they even considered a vegetable? Yes, many chefs and scientist consider them so
  • Supposedly they taste like asparagus or okra, some say they have their own unique flavor, so it is a risk you just might have to take!
  • They do not soften up quite like regular vegetables, but are worth the effort!
    What exactly are these deep green coiled vegetables? 
      Fiddleheads are actually young fern fronds that have not yet opened up. They must be picked during a two-week window before the fern unfurls. These cute little delicacies are named for their appearance, which resembles the scroll at the head or top of a fiddle. The Ostrich fern is the species that produces these edible shoots; which have a unique texture. They are covered in a papery brown scale while growing about two inches from the ground.
        • Fiddleheads can be consumed raw or cooked, but you have to keep them refrigerated until you are ready to use them; it is recommended to use within two days after purchase. Try steaming them for ten minutes until they become soft, as others say giving them a twenty minute hot soak, and then cooking them once again to remove any toxins. 
         (My husband and I have personally eaten them raw, and only rinsed them under running water and then sauteed them in butter and oil as in my 'Kimchi Butter Post')

        I am often asked this question- Where can I find Fiddlehead ferns? 

        They are readily available for about two weeks the beginning of April to May, depending on the cool temperatures. One source for purchasing them on the north east coast is Whole Foods. They are a world wide spring delicacy. Appearing on menus and in markets, and disappear quickly off shelves.Oregon is also a source, as well as a website- Norcliff Farms
          Introduce this fun and interesting gourmet green to children at an early age to kick up their food enthusiast taste buds by cooking them in a pasta or green salad!  

          Warning- not all ferns are edible, only the Ostrich Fern, and only professionals know what to look for when foraging for Fiddle Head Ferns. So unless you are experienced, only purchase them from a reputable market.

          I also found out a fellow blog many of us follow goes out to forage these beauties and will be sharing her experience with us soon!