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?