A Classic Fiddlehead Ferns Recipe

Growing up, fiddlehead ferns were a mysterious food that other people ate. People in Maine, for instance.

Then there were poets:

Fiddlehead Ferns

By Matthew Dickman

(excerpt)

Olive seashells

in the air

you can eat.

The very inner of the inner ear

in the breeze.

Last night my son dreamt

about falling

out of trees.

I had almost forgotten

that we were

simians.

The fiddlehead turns

on itself but only ever in love.

Green cinnamon roll,

a snake too small to hunt

anyone.

Curled in like my son’s

fingers, his fists.

More beautiful than

a spider fern,

spun-in island,

moldy tongue of a hippopotamus,

the eye of the forest.

 And then, there were people in books. (Usually books about people in Maine).

In one novel, a lost girl survived her hunger by munching the curled greenery as she hiked through an endless forest. In others, it was long-limbed, somewhat artsy women who knew the secrets of the river bottom and would bring clusters of the curled tops home to their charming cottages in the woods.

But like mushrooms, it’s not just any frond curled like a violin’s scroll from just any fern. Some are not edible. Some are toxic. However, unlike mushrooms, it seems when people make foraging mistakes with ferns, they tend to get sick rather than facing possible death like with mushrooms mistakes.

Still, not a blunder anyone wants to make.

Unless someone in the know can teach you what ferns you can eat look like–apparently a u-shaped groove in the ostrich fern, and which ones to avoid–perhaps stick to the experts at your local market. 

Here’s what Food and Wine Magazine  has to say:

Where: Fiddleheads can be found in much of the United States as well as Europe, Asia and Canada: In fact, Tide Head, New Brunswick, calls itself the Fiddlehead Capital of the World.

When: May.

What to look for: Small coils that are tightly wound up. Fiddleheads should be a vibrant bright green, unless they are still covered in their brown papery skin. The skin should come off easily when rubbed. Purchase or pick only ostrich fern fiddleheads, as they are the safest for consumption.

Flavor profile: Fiddleheads are sweet like asparagus, grassy and snappy like a great green bean, with a touch of broccoli stem.

Health benefits: Rich in potassium, iron, antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids, fiddleheads are fantastically healthy.

How to eat them: Because ostrich ferns contain a trace amount of a toxin, you should never eat them raw. (Not that you would want to—they are quite bitter when raw.) Cook them for at least 5 minutes. First, prep the fiddleheads by rinsing them and rubbing off any papery brown skin. Then they can be steamed, braised, sautéed, roasted or pickled (after blanching).

Basically, you want to treat fiddleheads like you do asparagus. But for our classic recipe, let’s add some eggs and goat cheese. In the words of writer Catherine Johnson:

Yes, ferns just love to celebrate

All things glorious, green and new.

Until they wind up on your plate

 In a frittata made for two.

Fiddlehead Frittata with Bacon and Chevre- adapted from Salt in My Coffee

Ingredients

  • 1 lb organic red potatoes, chopped
  • 12 ounces fiddleheads, cleaned
  • 4 shallots (or one medium onion)
  • 12 large eggs (or 10 duck eggs)
  • 4 slices thick-cut turkey bacon, cooked and crumbled
  • 8 ounces chopped or shredded cheddar cheese
  • 4 ounces crumbled chevre
  • olive oil, butter, or bacon fat for frying

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
  2. In a deep cast iron pan, saute fiddleheads, chopped potatoes, and diced shallots, in a generous amount of butter, olive oil, or bacon fat. Cook over medium-low heat until fiddleheads are fiddleheads and potatoes are tender, and shallots are getting translucent – about 15-20 minutes.
  3. Whisk together eggs and cheese in a large bowl, then add to the pan with the fiddlehead mixture. If you’d like to skip dirtying a bowl, just add the cheese and eggs directly to the pan, mixing vigorously as you crack in each egg.
  4. Stir everything well so that it’s thoroughly mixed, then put the whole thing in the oven. Bake until the center is set, and the frittata is golden brown – about 35 minutes.
  5. Cool slightly, and serve.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to paint a landscape in my charming cottage and then go foraging for fiddleheads.

Happy eating!

5 Spring Cleaning Tips

Trisha Krauss

After their brief visit to my magnolia tree last month, the birds are here to stay. I could sit and listen to their song for hours. But it’s time to get to work and tackle spring cleaning, so I’ll open my windows and let in the fresh, green tasting air and use the delightful sound of birdsong as my soundtrack to the day. 

Time to get started. Here are my spring cleaning tips as we all jump in and ready our homes for the season.

Declutter

First, go through junk drawers, desktops, and kitchens. Get rid of what you don’t need. If you know deep in your heart that you have no use for some gadget or decoration that just isn’t you, but you can’t quite bring yourself to donate/toss the object, get a big cardboard box and label it with a date for six months from now. Stick the box in your garage. Put an alert on your calendar, and when the six months are up go through the box. If you didn’t catch yourself thinking you needed those household items, or you weren’t even tempted to pull them out, then it’s time to donate.

Of course, it’s better if you can take the initial plunge, but some people live in fear of getting rid of the wrong things.

But if  you had a parent that went on decluttering rampages and you still can’t get over those notebooks she threw out filled with your private thoughts or your doll that was given away before you were ready. Then use the six-month box with my blessing.

Dusting

Start at the top of the room and go down. This way, you’re not covering your just cleaned,  perfectly ordered room in dust from your ceiling fan.

Make sure to get any strings of cobwebs hiding out in the corners of your rooms and light fixtures. 

Use a pillowcase to envelop each blade of a ceiling fan and pull the dust off. Then wipe down the fan with a slightly damp microfiber cloth. Empty the dust into the trash and wash the pillowcase.

This is also the perfect time to change the batteries in your smoke detectors.

Walls and Windows

Once again, start at the top. For your walls, wrap a broom with a soft cloth to dust the hard to reach places.

According to Maids.com, “Get two buckets, some soft sponges, and dry microfiber cloths. Fill one bucket with warm water for rinsing and the other with your wall cleaner. Start at the top of the wall and work your way down using light, circular motions. Work in sections to prevent spotting and discoloration. Wash the wall with your cleaning solution and then wipe off the residue with a sponge dipped in your rinse bucket. Dry the wall with your microfiber cloth and move on to the next section.”

Don’t forget the baseboards! A soft toothbrush can work wonders if you have trouble getting in the crevices.

For your windows, use your favorite glass cleaner or use a combination of equal parts of white vinegar and water.

But first, pop out the screens and wash with soapy water and rinse off with a hose.

For the windows, clean both sides and dry with a clean microfiber towel.

Don’t forget the window tracks. Vacuum them out and scrub with a toothbrush and your cleaner. Wipe down the frames with a microfiber cloth.

Clean your window treatments according to the manufacturer’s directions.

Cupboards and Doors

Go over your doors and cupboards with a damp microfiber cloth. If needed, use a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser.

Don’t forget door knobs and pulls. Soapy water works great most of the time, but if you have brass, copper, or pewter handles, then you need to know the recommended methods for your metals. Check out Direct Door Hardware’s website for help. Apparently, in the old days people would polish pewter with green cabbage leaves! You can’t find a more natural, non-toxic cleaning practice than that.

Bathrooms and Linen Closets

Take everything out of your drawers, cupboards, and linen closet. Wipe down the surfaces and return what you want to keep. Get rid of expired products and wash linens if they smell musty. 

Add a half cup white vinegar to the final cycle for soft fresh towels and linens.

Have a lovely spring. Make sure to take some time to appreciate its beauty. In the words of Anne Lamott:

I am going to try to pay attention to the spring. I am going to look around at all the flowers, and look up at the hectic trees. I am going to close my eyes and listen.