Thursday, April 7, 2016

Foraging for Fiddleheads

I'm dragging you back to the woods and river banks for today's post. Today we are talking about FiddleHead Ferns and that's really lucky because they are a spring time gourmet wild Vegetable!
I've been checking around our area and I think I may have just missed them for this year. The weather has been very strange, way too hot for April and tonight it's dropping back down to freezing temps, so I'm still on the hunt.

This is what your looking for  :

Fiddleheads, yeah it's a strange name but once you see them you totally get where it's coming from. The tightly coiled shape resemble the scroll of a violin or fiddle if you rather. 

They are the emerging sprouts of wild ferns, most often on the east coast our variety of choice is Ostrich Ferns. They have a taste that could be compared to asparagus. Generally they are seen from April to June, depending on the weather. They can sometimes be found at farmers markets or specialty stores, but for a heavy price. Foraging for your own with friends or family is rewarding as well as much better on the budget. 

Be sure to pick them when they are tightly curled, with brown paper like pieces still attached. Once they have opened the taste is significantly different, be sure to get them early. They are high in fiber like most vegetables, vitamins A and C  and some iron. They should never be eaten raw, and cooking often takes a couple of steps just to make sure that any bacteria has been killed. They will need to be eaten quickly after harvesting, they don't have much of a shelf life but they can be frozen.

So the first step to cooking them is either boil or steam for 10 minutes, then sauteed in olive oil with other greens, they also pair well with eggs.

Species of ferns can be difficult to differentiate between so it's best to have a good field guide to make sure that you are getting the right fern. The Forager's Harvest has a great blog post giving a good description of safe varieties of fiddleheads.

Thanks for stopping by on your A to Z Challenge Trip. Tomorrow I'll be back to a garden variety plant.

See you in the Garden!!