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Fiddlehead Ferns, at last

June 12, 2009

Fiddlehead Ferns and Pancetta

Here it is, my last two weeks in Boston. And I have to say, it has been a pretty lame spring so far. I know that June can often be gloomy and disappointing, but I had hoped that New England would give me a break and throw me some sunshine, just so I could leave with fond memories, rather than the reassurance I already feel that moving back to the west coast was the right idea.

The hardest part of a late and crappy spring? I’m still waiting for all those lovely spring vegetables Bon Appetit has been bragging about for the last two months. Our farmer’s markets are still pretty darned paltry, where they are even open at all. And I thought that I had missed the narrow window for Fiddlehead ferns, a treat I’m not so sure will be available in Walla Walla, Washington. But once again, it was Mr. X to the rescue: He found these at the market last week and bought them up for me, because he’s pretty swell like that.

I wrote about Fiddlehead ferns last year, the one time I managed to find them. Just a re-cap: They are the unfurled heads of ferns, which are only edible during a brief period. The most common edible fern in New England is the Ostrich fern, though there are different types in other parts of the world. Raw, they are very bitter and potentially not that good for you, but once cooked they have a light, almost grassy flavor that doesn’t require much in the way of adornment as a meal. A light saute in olive oil is really all they need, but of course, I can never leave well enough alone.

Fiddlehead Ferns, Pancetta, and Rice

Fiddleheads are generally cleaned when you buy them in a supermarket, but you should give them another once over, to remove any of the remaining light brown, papery chaff. Rinse them briefly in cold water and pat them dry, and trim the ends of the stems before cooking.

I sauteed these Fiddleheads with some pancetta and garlic, and finished them off with the juice from a one small lemon. Some sources I’ve read recommend boiling Fiddlehead ferns for at least ten minutes to remove the bitter flavor. I’ve never done this; I usually just saute them for about eight to ten minutes, and they’ve never tasted bitter to me. If you’re wary, though, go ahead and boil them, then just saute them for a few minutes. I served this over rice and lentils, because that’s what I had, but they’d be excellent with some pasta or Israeli couscous. A smidge of creme fraiche and some chives to finish them off and you have a simple, excellent, and very New England springtime dinner.

Fiddlehead ferns and Pancetta

  • 1/2 T. olive oil
  • about 1/2 c. chopped pancetta
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • about 2 c. Fiddlehead ferns, cleaned and trimmed
  • salt, to taste
  • juice from 1 small lemon
  • 1 T. creme fraiche
  • fresh chopped chives, as garnish

Fiddlehead Ferns

Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a skillet. Add the pancetta and saute for a minute or two before adding the garlic and the Fiddleheads. Cook, stirring occasionally, for about eight to ten minutes, then finish off with salt and lemon juice. Serve over pasta and garnish with creme fraiche and chives. You really can’t get easier than that.

While the weather might not make me miss New England, the memory of these Fiddleheads sure will.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. Emily permalink
    June 12, 2009 5:08 pm

    Have no fear…I believe we do have fiddleheads out this way!!!

  2. June 14, 2009 8:14 pm

    Wow, never knew you could eat ferns! Blimey! They look great, though.

  3. mom permalink
    June 14, 2009 10:21 pm

    Such a beautiful looking dish. Grass-like taste though? I don’t know…

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