Category Archives: fiddlehead fern

Fiddlehead Ferns Spring Pasta

I wanted to try this Martha Stewart’s recipe ever since I saw that spring al fresco image with fiddleheads pasta dinner served with a glass of white wine on a crisp white table cloth with some lilac flowers in the background. It has turned out to be an amazing vegetarian recipe with some new ingredients (fiddleheads and dandelions), so next spring I’ll be doing it again. Here is my tribute to it.

Fiddleheads make a great spring addition to our nutrient-deprived menus. They are low in calories (only 10 calories per ounce), contain the antioxidant beta-carotene and omega fatty acids. They are rich in niacin, potassium, vitamin C and dietary fibre. Rule of thumb: fiddlehead ferns need to be cooked for consumption, or they can cause a stomach upset. They can be blanched, roasted, sautéed, grilled, pickled or frozen.
Here are some interesting facts you may not know about fiddlehead ferns:
  • Fiddlehead ferns are known to be eaten in Australia, Canada, China, India, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, New Zealand, Taiwan and USA.
  • They are used for beer making in Norway and Siberia.
  • First Nations people used fiddleheads not only for food, but also as a medicine against worms and parasites.
  • There is an annual fiddlehead festival in Maine, USA.
  • Maliseet Indians of New Brunswick, Canada, where known to use fiddlehead fern as medicine against malaria and believed it was good to eat it to pure the body of toxins and impurities.
  • New Brunswick is abundant in fiddlehead ferns and Canadian village Tide Head bills itself as ”Fiddlehead Capital of the World”.
  • In Europe fiddlehead ferns are used as a preservative for wine. 

If you never tried fiddleheads before, the taste is like a cross between asparagus, spinach and artichoke with perhaps a little more accentuated earthiness. The loamy taste of fiddlehead ferns can easily put some people off, so if you never had it before I suggest you begin with a very small batch. Most people I know, however, find their taste and zesty crunch agreeable and exotic, so it’s really a very individual experience.

The recipe calls for the fiddleheads to be steamed, but you can boil them instead for 2-3 minutes. Then they are sautéed with leeks and tossed with dandelion greens, lemon juice, olive oil and linguine. It is as simple as that.
Serve immediately in a hot plate. I topped mine with some shaved parmesan and few anchovies and added them as optional in the recipe. A real no-brainer to throw a little al fresco party in your backyard.
Store any extra of the sauté in the fridge in a plastic container for a few days and use it with another pasta, rice or mashed potatoes some other time. Or just sprinkle with your favorite vinegar and extra olive oil and bring the box with you for a lunch or picnic to have with a toast or crackers: crunchy, refreshing and full of flavours.
1 pound linguine
1/2 pound fiddleheads
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon lemon juice
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 pound leeks, washed, trimmed and thinly sliced
1 1/2 cups dandelion or sorrel greens washed
shaved parmesan to garnish (optional)
few anchovies to garnish chopped (optional)
Clean the fiddleheads by soaking them in a cold water with a teaspoon of salt and some lemon juice. Push them down several times to clean them well. Transfer them to steamer rack in a saucepan and steam covered for about 4-5 minutes.
In a large pot of boiling water, cook the linguine until al dente. Drain and transfer to a large bowl.
In the meantime, heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add leaks and sauté for 2-3 minutes, until soft. Add fiddleheads and cook for 1-2 minutes more, until golden. Stir in dandelion greens. Toss the mixture with the pasta, season with olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Serve immediately.
Recipe adapted from Whole Living.

Fiddlehead Ferns & Parmesan Omelette

Last week was a ”fiddlehead fern ingredient week” in our house. I’ve got a pound of fiddleheads, which was enough to make several extraordinary dishes: omelette, spring pasta and a totally awesome pizza, which I will feature later this week-end (if I am able to make a break from our garden chores). If you like to eat what is in season and love to discover new flavours or ingredients, this recipe is a must try. The star of this post is a Fiddlehead Ferns & Parmesan Omelette. It’s incredible how the fiddlehead fern ingredient can turn the regular humble omelet into this elegant and exotic woodsy omelette.

May (from late April to mid-May to be exact) is the only time of the year when you can find fiddlehead ferns in your local farmers’ market or grocery. Equally, you can go to the forest or along the banks of the rivers and streams and forage fiddlehead ferns yourself while they are still tightly coiled. However, not every fern is edible and you have to know the exact North American varieties (ostrich, cinnamon, royal and bracken ferns). The one that looks fuzzy, for example, is not edible.

Here is a good video on edible and poisonous fiddleheads foraging and their cooking tips from Vermont Pure Herbs :
Although foraging them one day is a very tempting idea, for now I prefer to buy them from a store. In the US, especially Western US, fiddlehead ferns can be as expensive as $17 to $25 per pound, the reason why this spring delicacy is considered to be ”chic and snobbish”. In Eastern Canada, (and New England) however, it’s very affordable: $3.99 to $5.00 a pound, barely reflecting the inflation rate from year to year, unlike many other locally grown foods. And you only need a handful of these little green coils for any dish (i.e. omelet, pasta, pizza, etc.) as they have pretty strong flavor identity.
For the omelette, I made two varieties: one with fiddleheads, bacon and mushrooms; and another one simply with fiddleheads and parmesan additions (below recipe). Both were wonderful and were gone in a wink. I like to add a little bit of flour in the egg mix, when preparing my omelette (in this case I added gluten-free spelt flour). This trick makes a different, more substantial and soufflé-like effect without the necessity to separate the eggs.
I also use a mix of butter and olive oil for frying to prevent the butter to burn and add an extra touch of flavor. Finally, I serve it with a bit of sour cream or yogurt on a side. Delicious! Experiment with fiddleheads and your fav ingredients for yourself – it’s quite a journey! And stay tuned for the next wonderful dishes with this magic ingredient!
Ingredients for one omellete:
50g or 8 to 10 fiddleheads
1 tablespoon parmesan cheese, finely grated
salt and pepper to taste
2 eggs, beaten lightly
1 tablespoon water (or 15% cream)
1 tablespoon spelt flour (or wheat flower)
1 teaspoon (5 ml) butter
1 teaspoon (5 ml) olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
Blanch the fiddleheads for 2 minutes in a boiling salted water. Drain and rinse in cold water. Set aside.
In a bowl, mix eggs, water (or cream) and flour until the texture is smooth and has no lumps. Salt and pepper. In a hot 8 inch (20 cm), non-stick skillet, melt 1 teaspoon of butter and add 1 teaspoon of olive oil. Pour egg mix in a skillet. Cook over medium heat for a few minutes until the edge of omelette is almost cooked, but not the center. Distribute the filling on the half of the omelette. Using spatula, fold the omelette toward the filling (from one or both sides if you want) and cover the skillet for a minute. Remove the cover and slide the omelette onto a plate and serve. Yum!