From the Co-op archives
A sure sign of spring is the arrival of fiddleheads, the coiled, young shoots of the fiddlehead fern. Their unusual name comes from their shape, which resembles the head of a violin. Both the head and a small portion of the stem are edible, with a taste similar to a cross between asparagus, beans, and okra.
In order to enjoy these unusual tasty morsels, you have to act fast. Available only in the spring, fresh fiddleheads are gathered when the shoots are only a few inches high, still tightly curled, and covered with brown papery scales. This period lasts only a few weeks; once the delicate fern has uncoiled, it is no longer edible.
In the grocery store, choose fiddleheads that are bright, firm, and about one inch in diameter, with short stems. Fiddleheads will keep tightly wrapped in the refrigerator for two days. To remove the papery skin, rub them gently in a dry towel. Just before using, rinse to remove any grit.
Fiddleheads contain a natural toxin that may cause stomach upset. Always boil fiddleheads in water for 10 minutes and drain before proceeding with any recipe.
Try serving boiled or steamed fiddleheads with a dash of balsamic vinegar or a dab of butter and a splash of fresh lemon juice. Or, sauté them in olive oil, garlic, and some fresh herbs. Fiddleheads add a wonderful texture, flavor, and visual appeal to cold salads.
After boiling them, place the fiddleheads in an ice bath to cool them quickly and preserve their beautiful color.