They’re back!  DH and I were strolling through Whole Foods the other night when I spotted a precious sign.  Fiddlehead Ferns, it read – and there they were, packed in a bin with tiny ice chips to keep them crisp.

For the uninitiated, fiddleheads are the immature, unopened fronds of a fern that, when harvested at infancy, make a yummy vegetable.  The season is short, really just a matter of weeks in early spring, but that’s one of the things that makes them special.  Another is their scrolled shape, another their nutty taste.

Needless to say, I wasn’t passing that bin by.  Using the tongs Whole Foods provided (those measly black things in the picture above), I patiently placed three or four little fronds at a time in my bag.  Eventually, I gave up on the tongs and scooped with my hands.  Clearly, Whole Foods hadn’t expected a lover like me.

I have special reason to be excited about fiddleheads this year.  They’re in the opening pages of Sweet Salt Air, served at the Chowder House in Quinnipeague Harbor.  How does the chef prepare them?  The same way I do, which is very simply.  After carefully washing and patting them dry, I saute them over a medium-high heat in a light mix of olive oil and butter.  Stirred occasionally, they soften up in six to eight minutes.  You don’t want them too soft; a little crunch is part of the treat.  Add a sprinkle of salt and a squeeze of fresh lemon, and you have yourself a healthy side or snack.

Being from New England, where fiddleheads have a certain springtime caché, I’ve seen them served any number of ways.  IMHO, if you bury them under bread crumbs or cheese, though, their taste is lost.   Simple is definitely better.  Again, though, strictly MHO.

Have you ever cooked fiddleheads?  Got a recipe of your own that you’ll share?

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  1. Amy-Sue H on April 30, 2012 at 8:28 am

    So happy to know Fiddleheads are available – Yum! They remind me of childhood when I first discovered them up in Maine in my aunt and uncle’s garden.

  2. Susie M on April 30, 2012 at 5:05 pm

    Oh! I can’t wait to try your way of cooking them!! Sounds delish!! (And, yes, I agree… simpler is better.) We’ve always just boiled them in salted water for seven minutes, strained them, tossed with a little salt and olive oil or butter and they are wonderful. Hope to be able to find some soon here in NY so we can try your way!! Thanks so much for sharing!! :o)

  3. Peggie Beaupre Ashbury on April 30, 2012 at 5:15 pm

    How interesting! I never heard of them before, but they sound wonderful. I’ll love reading about them!

  4. Paula on April 30, 2012 at 5:29 pm

    Does that sign really say $6.99/lb??? Oh my! I can go almost anywhere in New Brunswick (Canada) and pick my own fiddleheads for free. I can….but I don’t. I go to my local grocery store and buy them. They don’t last long in our household and we never do anything fancy. Fiddleheads are best when they are steamed and then eaten with salt, pepper and butter.

  5. Jane on April 30, 2012 at 7:02 pm

    I am from NE Georgia, and while I am familiar with fiddlehead ferns (they grow wild here) I had no idea a’tall that they were edible! I must try them. Thank you for the tidbit, Barbara.

  6. Jill Cooper on May 4, 2012 at 7:06 am

    I always wondered how you cook them. Thanks for sharing your recipe!

  7. Janet M on May 22, 2013 at 11:00 am

    Have heard of fiddleheads and knew that they were ferns. Didn’t know they were edible. I like swiss chard. Does that taste anything like fiddlehead? I live in Montana and have not seen (or noticed) fiddleheads in the veggie dept.

  8. Tiffany on June 12, 2013 at 12:02 am

    Wow! I have never heard of these. What do they taste like? Anything you’d compare them to? BTW you’ve been featured in Fabulous Fiction. Hope you enjoy!

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