Fiddlehead ferns are a sure sign that spring has arrived. The unfurled frond of edible species of ferns, this vibrant green vegetable is wild harvested from the wet woods. They are exciting because they are one of the first crisp green spring vegetables to turn up at the market, preceding asparagus often by several weeks. Some liken their taste to a cross between asparagus and okra, though they are distinctly flavored – very green and woodsy. Fiddleheads have a short season, so it’s best to have fun with this whimsical vegetable while it’s here.
2 oz. extra virgin olive oil
½ small onion, chopped
2-3 strips of bacon (optional)
2 large garlic cloves, minced
6-8 oz. assorted fresh mushrooms, cleaned and cut to desired size
1 Tbsp. butter if desired
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
a small handful of fiddlehead ferns (about 20 pieces)
- Bring a small pot of water to a boil.
- Meanwhile, in a skillet set over a medium flame, heat the olive oil. Add the onions and bacon if using and cook, stirring often, until the bacon has rendered its fat and is beginning to brown, and the onions are softened and golden. Stir in the garlic. Cook for another minute and add the butter if using. Add the mushrooms. Cook, stirring often, until the mushrooms are fully cooked. Season all with salt and pepper.
- When the mushroom and onion mixture is nearly ready, season the boiling water with salt. Add the fiddlehead ferns to the pot and cook for 2-3 minutes, until they are tender.* Remove the fiddleheads with a strainer or slotted spoon and add them to the mushroom sauté. Toss together, adjust seasonings, and serve.
*A note on cooking fiddlehead ferns:
Fiddleheads will go from tender to overcooked in a very short time, much in the same manner as asparagus. Taste a fern after 2 minutes of cooking. If you’d like them more tender at that point, let them cook another 30 seconds, then try them again.
Lift them from the cooking water rather than straining them out – sometimes there is a little sediment in the fronds that will come loose and sink the bottom of the pot. Lifting the ferns out will leave it behind.