They are only here for a short while, so seek them out now!
Our farm stand opened with lots of glorious spring flowers and a nice bounty of fiddlehead ferns! After prepping them, I decided to use the little fiddleheads with baby potatoes and Vidalia onions, which are also in season, although not grown here in New England. I love them though, so sweet and mild in flavor. With the addition of shiitake mushrooms, the quartet was complete!
Of course, if you can’t find fiddleheads, you can substitute fresh asparagus!
In the Northeast United States, the ferns that we eat as “fiddleheads” the unfolded sprouts, are ostrich ferns, Matteuccia struthiopteris. As with other wild foods, if you do not know your ferns, please don’t pick them yourself without direction since some ferns can make you very sick! Around here, you can find them at farmsteads, co-ops, and often roadside pickup trucks!
The fiddleheads are a nutritional powerhouse, high in Omegas 3 and 6, potassium, protein, fiber, vitamins A, C, B1,2,&3, zinc, copper, manganese, calcium, and iron. They are low in calories, carbs, and fat. Native populations foraged these and other sprouting spring greens as a nutritional boost as a long winter of eating stored foods.
They are delicious, tasting of asparagus, but you have to prep the correctly or they will be hideous!
Prep the fiddleheads:
To begin, soak fiddleheads in cold, salted water for five minutes, and rub off any brown, papery scales with your fingers or a soft cloth. These are extremely bitter and taste horrible. Drain, change the water, and soak an additional five minutes. Discard the soaking water, and rinse well.
If the second water is still dark and murky, soak them a third time, sometimes they are quite dirty. These prep steps are extremely important, so don’t rush the process. Put on some music and putter around with other tasks. It is well worth the effort.
Don’t skip any step
Sett a large pot of salted water over high heat, and once boiling, add the prepared fiddleheads. Once back to a good boil, blanch for one or two minutes. The water will darken as the tannin is released from the sprouts; this can be alarming; the water can be as dark as English Breakfast Tea, that is good! It means the tannin has left the greens, and your fiddleheads will not be bitter. Drain, and immediately soak in ice water to stop the cooking process.
Once they are completely chilled, put onto a fresh tea towel and pat dry, or spin in your salad spinner. You can do all this ahead of time and refrigerate the fiddleheads for several days until you are ready to use them. Cooking at this point will be quick.
Fiddleheads, Vidalia Onions, and Baby Potatoes
This recipe is fast to put together! In the time it takes for the baby potatoes to cook, you can have everything else ready to go as long as you have prepped your fiddleheads. This side dish has the lightest of dressings just to add a little zest! You can substitute other herbs you have on hand if you like.
If you don’t have fiddleheads, you can substitute blanched asparagus!
Notes: my teaspoon measures here were a teaspoon from the silverware drawer which happened to be in my hand, and not a measuring set! That’s how my mom cooked!
- 1 lb. baby potatoes, multi-colored if possible
- Zest and juice of one large lemon
- 1 heaping tsp. grainy French mustard
- 1 heaping tsp. fresh tarragon, minced
- 2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
- 5 or 6 large shiitake mushrooms, sliced
- 1 Vidalia onion, sliced
- 10 ounces prepared fiddleheads
- Salt and pepper to taste
Scrub and place the potatoes in a pan and cover with cold water by an inch. Add some salt and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook until the potatoes are tender. This will depend on the size of the potatoes, but start checking at about six minutes.
In a large mixing bowl, mix together the zest and juice, mustard, and tarragon. Set aside.
In a large skillet, heat olive oil and add the mushrooms and onions. Cook until the mushrooms have started to brown and the onions are soft.
Drain the potatoes and add them to the pot along with the fiddleheads. Cook for an additional five minutes, then add everything to the bowl, and mix with the dressing. Season with a little salt and a lot of pepper, taste, and season again if needed.
Plate and enjoy. If you have from fresh edible flowers (again, know what you are picking), garnish with those.
This makes eight servings. Reheat leftovers for breakfast and top with an egg if you like! Or turn it into a cold salad.
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