A long time ago, I was flying home from Boston through Buffalo, NY. A college aged boy sat next to me on the plane and placed one of those small fabric coolers in the seat in front of him. Later in the flight (the flight was only an hour long), he pulled out the cooler to check on it’s contents. I asked him what it was. He explained to me that he was bringing back fiddleheads to some neighbours of his in Wisconsin or Illinois or something. They had paid him to transport the goods from New England to the midwest.
I had never really heard of eating fiddleheads before so I didn’t think much of it. Of course, I know of fiddleheads, the shape that young ferns take as they emerge from the ground. But the thought of eating them surprised me a little. Turns out, people eat a specific kind of fiddlehead, that of the ostrich fern. It’s a bit of a delicacy.
Then I started noticing them in grocery stores. Always off in a corner, always a little pricier than I would like for something I knew nothing about. By the time I would build up courage to try them, they would have left the grocery store for another year.
This year, I took my chances, I bought a small bag of fiddleheads at $4.99/lb. When I posted about it on facebook, I got a ton of replies. Recommendations on how to cook them, warnings about potential toxicity and lots of words of encouragement. I didn’t know fiddleheads would draw so much attention. So I followed suggestions.
After cutting off the brown ends, I boiled the fiddleheads for about 15 minutes. I set them aside while I boiled potatoes and then sauteed the fiddleheads in some olive oil, garlic powder, salt and lemon for another 5 minutes.
I served them on a bed of mashed potatoes.
I may have over cooked them a little, but it’s hard to tell because I had never had them before. I was mostly conservative because of reports of Foodborne illness coming from undercooked fiddlehead consumption.
The verdict? I liked them. They had an unusual taste that I just couldn’t place. I’m thinking it was almost like canned heart of palm with a texture not unlike cooked asparagus.
I think serving it on mashed potatoes was a fun way to eat them, but could really enjoy them in a pasta dish with some fresh garlic and onions sauteed along side.
On a completely unrelated note, I babysat this 11 week old cutie pie yesterday. His name is Jack and he’s our friends’ Wire Fox Terrier puppy.
So, have you ever had fiddleheads? How did you prepare them? Did you like them?