Saturday, March 20, 2010

Wild Harvest . . .

Fiddleheads emerge as miniature dervish dancers covering the forest floor and heralding in Spring like no other woodland plant. Tiny gray-green spirals reaching into the first really warm days. Each of them wearing their own little fur overcoat to protect them when it was chillier weather. Snapped up and eaten by whoever has the sense and taste to do it.

There isn’t anything that says spring as well as fiddleheads.  Just when I have had slightly more than enough of winter, this familiar and much-welcomed spiraled green, novel and tasty morsel appears.

The flavour of fiddleheads has been likened to asparagus, with a slightly nutty taste, and to artichoke and okra. I concur with those who describe the taste of fiddleheads as the taste of spring!

You can pick your own fiddleheads if you know where to look and when to catch them unawares at just the right moment in their growth.
  • A tight coil and only an inch or two of stem beyond the coil
  • The coil should be one to one and a half inches in diameter
  • There may be brown papery chaff around the head. This is okay, much like an onion skin, you will remove it before cooking
  • Choose firm, bright-green, tightly-curled fiddleheads; the little brown shells still intact. They should be crisp.
  • Fiddleheads are best eaten fresh and don't store well even when refridgerated.
The flavor of fiddleheads goes well with cheeses, tomato sauce and oriental cuisine. Excellent with Hollandaise sauce. And truly delicious when combined with other spring foraged delicacies like wild leeks or morels.

The following is one of my favorite ways to prepare this Spring treat:

Steamed Fiddleheads With Wild Leek Greens

1 pound Fiddleheads cleaned

(CLEANING FIDDLEHEADS: If more than 2 inches of stem remains attached beyond the coiled part of the fiddlehead snap or cut it off. If any of the paper chaff remains on the fiddleheads you may rub it off by hand. Since the chaff is very light, you may want to clean off the chaff outdoors by fanning them or lightly shaking them in an open wire salad basket.

 After the chaff is removed wash the fiddleheads in several changes of cold water to remove any dirt or grit. Drain the fiddleheads completely. Use them fresh, and soon after harvest. They don't store well - only pick what you will eat that day.)

1/2 cup plain yogurt 1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice, or to taste
3 teaspoons Dijon-style mustard
3 tablespoons finely chopped Wild Leek greens

Steam the fiddleheads over boiling water for 5 minutes,or until they are crisp-tender. Drain, then chill in a bowl of ice and cold water to stop the cooking. When they have cooled transfer to colander to drain.

In a small bowl whisk together the yogurt, mayonnaise, lemon juice, mustard, wild leek greens. Add salt and pepper to taste, whisking until the sauce is smooth. Serve the Fiddleheads topped with the sauce.

Serves 4 to 6

"One cannot think well, love well, sleep well,
if one has not dined well."
'A Room of One's Own', Virginia Woolf, English novelist (1882-1941).

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