These swirly green beauties are fiddlehead ferns. Harvested low to the ground before they unfurl to become full-grown ferns, fiddleheads are a brief seasonal wonder. Apparently they are a traditional spring dish in New England — particularly Maine — though I had never heard about them until moving to Michigan. Last spring I was convinced I could find some to harvest on my own, but never did. (Sadly no morels either — one day!) This year, I went the easy route and snagged some yesterday at the coop in town.
I poked around a little on the interwebs and ended up doing a simple saute with butter, garlic and red pepper flakes. Then, poking around a little more this morning found that there are some crazy toxins in fiddleheads. They (the infamous they) recommend boiling for at least ten minutes or steaming for twenty. Oops. So please, if the blog goes quiet for more than two days this week, please call the authorities to recover my body!
Anyway, despite the toxins, the fiddleheads were quite tasty. Mild, almost asparagus-y but with a little nuttiness. Here's my revised, non-toxic recipe:
Sauteed Fiddlehead Ferns
2 tsp salt, plus more to taste
1/2 pound fiddlehead ferns
1 Tb. butter
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes (optional)
Trim any brown ends or mushy parts. Fill a large bowl and add fiddleheads. Stir well to remove any grit. Drain and repeat.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add salt and fiddleheads. Cook 1-2 minutes. Drain and rinse with cold water.
In a large frying pan, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add fiddleheads. Cook, stirring, until they start to brown, about 5-6 minutes. Add garlic and red pepper flakes, if using, and cook, stirring, until garlic is fragrant and just starting to color, about 1 minute. Salt to taste. Serve immediately.