Recipe: Sautéed Fiddleheads

Sauteed Fiddleheads

Sautéed fiddleheads

I ran into some nice fiddleheads last weekend at a local market in Vermont. I used a few on a pizza and sautéed the rest. Serves 4 as a vegetable side dish.

Ingredients:
1 lb fiddleheads
2 T butter or olive oil
1 T chopped garlic
Kosher salt to taste

Method: Boil unwashed fiddleheads 10 minutes, drain and cool with cold water. Cut off any brown ends and remove brown papery bits that may cling to the heads. Saute garlic in butter or olive oil till just beginning to color, add fiddleheads, cook until heated through, add salt to taste.

Comment: Fiddleheads are the tightly curled ends of ferns before they unfurl. You want heads that are tight with a minimum of brown stuff. Most recipes say they “taste like asparagus” which isn’t true. The texture is kind of like asparagus but the flavor is a simpler green chlorophyll taste which feels and looks like springtime. Also, if you’re harvesting yourself (and know which kind to look for, with the big single violin-scroll heads like the picture) the top parts of the stem are just as good.

The harvester advised me to boil them 10 minutes to get rid of unspecified bad chemicals. That’s way too long. If you’re going to use them in another prep, just bring them to the boil, blanch one minute, drain. To cook through, 5 minutes will do it. Further research suggests a toxin called ptaquiloside is responsible for the occasional reports of gastric distress after eating fiddleheads, but it dissipates in the presence of heat. So go ahead and give them that 10 minutes, or 5 if you want to live dangerously.

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