What They Are: Fiddleheads are the unfurled beginnings of the fronds on a number a fern varietals. Sort of like a funky flower bud — each expansive and divided fern leaf begins as a tightly coiled tip. They take their name from the resemblance to the scroll at the end of a violin, or fiddle. With a firm texture and a grassy, slightly nutty flavor that reminds some people of asparagus or spinach, fiddleheads are unique, and a sure sign of Spring.
How to find and use them: The green gems are hitting farmers markets right now. To harvest your own just cut the fiddlehead and a few inches of the stem below the fiddlehead from each fern frond.If you are going to pick your own, be a responsible forager — research from the University of Maine shows that picking more than one half of the fiddleheads from a crown will greatly reduce plant vigor and possibly kill the plant. Don’t pick if the fiddleheads are smaller than a quarter, or if the crowns has less than four viable fiddleheads.
Once you've gathered your fiddleheads be sure to cook them — raw or undercooked fiddleheads have been linked to some food borne illnesses. Rinse in cool water and remove any brown papery skins. Steam for 10-12 minutes or boil fully covered for 15 minutes.
What some chefs are doing with them: At Depanneur in Brooklyn, NY, they sauté fiddleheads (foraged from upstate!) dressed in soy sauce, rice vinegar, and sesame, overtop a thinly sliced bed of roast beef, served hot on toasted baguette. Ca'Mea Restaurant and Inn in the Hudson Valley, NY is serves Grilled Swordfish with local Fiddleheads. Blackbird Cafe in Minneapolis has combined seafood and fiddleheads with an arctic char, fiddlehead, and farro dish with dates and ramp aioli. Tre Enoteca is Sacramento, CA is featuring Alaskan halibut with fiddlehead ferns, fingerling potatoes, spring onion petals, cherry tomatoes, and sauce barigoule. At Harvest restaurant, a pop-up in Anchorage, Alaska, savory sabayon was topped with radish sprouts, charred wild fiddlehead ferns, rolled cucumbers, topped with puffed rice. And at BLT Prime in NYC, a simple but delicious Spring-y side of warm quinoa, fiddleheads, cippolinis, and mint.