Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Fiddle Fern Stir Fry

Here by the Chesapeake Bay, we are pretty unfamiliar with fiddlehead ferns as an ingredient. Actually, we're pretty unfamiliar with them as much of anything. I certainly had not heard of them until a few weeks ago when I stopped in Eddies of Roland Park (Charles Street location) for some of their monster chocolate top cookies (sorry Geresbeck's). As soon as you walk into Eddies you hit the produce, the oh-so expensive produce! And the very first thing you see as you walk in (for a few weeks more anyway) is a small basket of these curly things:

...with a little plackard saying:

"Fiddle Head Ferns, $8.99 / lb."

My first thought was, "What is this?" My second thought was, "Oh look! There's a little explanation on the plackard." As it said, fiddle head ferns are a common delicacy in New England. Fiddlehead ferns, so called because they curl up in a way that makes them look like the head of a fiddle, are harvested for only a few weeks per year, and are in season roughly from May through early July. But they grow in New England, and not this far south, which is why we don't use them and which is why most Marylanders probably have never heard of them.

So I decided to buy a handful - roughly a dollar's worth - and test drive this exotic delicacy. I improvised a stir fry from the various "fiddlehead fern sauté" recipes I have found on the internet.

To a cast-iron skillet I added:
  • a swig of olive oil (about 1 - 2 T)
  • 1/4 white onion, sliced thinly
  • 2 cloves garlic, squooshed and chopped
I let that caramelize for a bit, and cleaned off the ferns, which isn't too difficult if you don't mind breaking them.

I had maybe 20 to 25 little fern heads, and when they were washed I threw
  • the 20 to 25 washed fiddle head fern heads
into the skillet, stir-frying with a wooden spoon for about five minutes, until the fern heads turn a lighter shade of green.

After adding
  • salt and pepper to taste
it was done! I was still able to get two servings out of it. The ferns were crunchy and tasted a bit like broccoli, with the texture of a firm asparagus. I served mine on top of Israeli couscous (which I actually left in too long - silly me) and ate it with some barbecued chicken from the freezer. All in all a pretty good meal!

Chicken and couscous optional

So now that I have this interesting new ingredient, I have to think up other ways to prepare it, even **GASP** Marylandize it! Ooooh, here's a thought: fiddlehead ferns with Old Bay. The fusion commences...

ADDENDUM - Maybe my Crohn's-addled system is not used to eating ferns, or maybe I undercooked them or undercleaned them or something. It explains why I was up for 45 minutes last night on the loo (oooooh). Again, I'm not an expert in cooking these things!


Rachel said...

They are poisonous if not cooked, so maybe they were a little under cooked? Poor you!

roopa said...

I've been searching for fiddlehead ferns and you've located them!

John said...

Rachel: So much for that fool I found online who said they could be eaten raw.

Roopa: Yep, but I don't know how long they'll be there.

Rachel said...

I also don't think it is totally true that they can't be grown here, I swear I saw some in our yard.

Kitt said...

Interesting! They should not be poisonous in most instances, but here's an interesting article on fiddlehead poisonings.

I would still eat them, but maybe cook them more thoroughly first!

John said...

I'm lucky! All I had were the runs. Byeeeeck...

johnny dollar said...

i saw those in eddie's roland park last week.

intriguing fo sho.

but i am not intrigued by montezuma's revenge. sorry to hear that happened.

K8teebug said...

Fiddleheads are actually ferns before they're unfurled in full force. Any fern that you see was once a fiddlehead!