Spring has officially sprung. Do you know how I know this? When it snowed the other day, it melted in only 4 hours! #welcometoCalgary. Other telltale signs are that the slug-filled cabbage from last year has unfortunately started to grow back amidst the rotting leaves from last year, prompting a swift and merciless removal (but don’t tell anyone), as well as all my favourite shows had their season finales last week; luckily I have all those TV hours PVRed to get me through the summer!
In all honesty, the arrival of spring obviously heralds the arrival of new spring produce, ushering in goodies like real tomatoes, cherries, peaches, corn, and the oh-so-elusive ramps. At this point I strongly believe that ramps are a mythical creature of legend, because I’ve never actually seen one. Therefore from here on out they will not be included in my spring vegetable repertoire. Fiddleheads, on the other hand…well. We have a tumultuous history. Every year, when they come into season, I buy a big bag. And, every year, I forget about them in the back of the fridge and by the time I’ve found a good recipe to try, they’ve gone all to mush. It’s really quite unfortunate. But this year….this year! SO on top of my game. As soon as they were on the counter, I was all over that. I sat down and did my yearly research on fiddleheads; read on, gentle reader, and absorb my knowledge.
Fiddleheads are actually a fern; I would say who knew, but they do kind of look like a fern, all curled up like they are, so I guess it’s not really that surprising. Also not surprising is that they can get pretty dirty curled up like that so it’s best to let them soak briefly in some water to rinse out all the dirt. Most of the recipes I found were pretty simple: first, a brief steam or boil, followed by a quick saute. Apparently fiddleheads can cause some stomach upset if consumed raw, so the double-cook makes sense. I’m not generally a huge fan of boiling vegetables (I still firmly believe that turning nice crispy vegetables into mush is counter-intuitive, both in terms of taste, texture, and lost nutrients), but also I have no desire to give everyone a case of food poisoning, so a quick boil was the way to go (I always burn my hands when I steam, so that is my least favourite way to go). See below!
Approx 1 lb fiddleheads
2 cloves garlic
1/4 of a lemon
1 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper
1. Prepare the fiddleheads by slicing off the brown tip of the fern and soaking/rinsing them in a large bowl of water.
2.Put the fiddleheads in a pot with enough water so that they can swim about freely and happily. Bring this to the boil, and let the fiddleheads cook for about 10 minutes.
4. Heat the garlic chips and the olive oil over very low heat in a frying pan; try to do this at the lowest heat possible, so the garlic doesn’t burn. This is a slightly tricky part, as you want the garlic chips to be lightly golden but not burned by the time the fiddleheads are ready.
5. Once the fiddleheads have been boiling for about 10 minutes, increase the heat to medium-high under the garlic chips and, using a spider or a colander, transfer the fiddleheads to the garlic pan. Be careful, because they will sputter quite a bit! Toss the fiddleheads for about 7 minutes, allowing them to get a bit brown on either side. You can add some crushed red chilli flakes here if you were so inclined (I am always inclined).
6. Finish off the fiddleheads with some salt and pepper to taste and a squeeze of lemon. They should be soft and not have too much crunch to them. Also of course they should be delicious. :) Savour them while you can, my friends!