A Special Spring Treat: Fiddlehead Ferns

Ingredient Spotlight

Fiddleheads are one of our favorite spring vegetables as much for their quirky, tightly-coiled appearance as their fresh flavor and snappy texture. How can you not love something that looks like it came straight from a Tim Burton movie? These are a blink-and-miss-it spring treat, so grab yourself a bundle, invite some friends to dinner, and proceed directly to the kitchen.

All ferns produce fiddleheads as they grow and put out new fronds, but the tastiest are those from the ostrich fern, the cinnamon fern, braken, and royal ferns. These fiddleheads taste mild, woodsy, and slightly nutty with a crisp-tender texture after cooking. If you've never had them before, imagine a cross between asparagus and fresh green beans.

Fiddleheads can be blanched, roasted in the oven, sautéed, or even thrown on the grill. Just be sure to cook them through as raw fiddleheads contain a toxin that can upset your stomach. Before cooking, you'll also need to wash them thoroughly and rub away any fuzzy brown chaff from the middle of the fiddleheads.

Use fiddleheads in dishes that will show them off to the fullest effect. A simple risotto or pasta dish is classic, though there's nothing wrong with just sautéing them in butter and eating them straight from the pan. I also like to arrange roasted fiddleheads on pizza, add them to salads, or use them in a coconut-based curry.

You'll have the most luck finding fiddleheads at the first farmers markets of the spring. Some gourmet grocery stores or local co-ops may also carry them. You can also forage for them in the wild, just be sure you can identify the right ferns before you start snipping the buds!

Do you love fiddleheads? How do you like to cook them?

Related: Spring Lemon Risotto with Asparagus and Fiddlehead Ferns

(Image: Elena Elisseeva/Shutterstock)

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