Don’t be misled by the title. You won’t find them in our Zone 8 climate as the predominant species for fiddlehead fronds is the Ostrich fern (Matteuccia struthiopteris) which is found growing primarily in the Northeastern United States and Canada. Fiddleheads are the tightly coiled tips of early spring ferns. Their unique structure is like the ornamental scroll at the end of a violin’s neck.
Surprisingly, just a few days ago, Central Market was featuring a freshly delivered batch of the fronds for $24.99 per pound. Only vaguely familiar with the Ostrich fern, but being an inquisitive gardener, I couldn’t resist the temptation to gather up a small bundle ($7.98) of the fronds to serve with our dinner that night. A careful online search gave me some very helpful tips and useful information for preparing them. Since this was my first experience cooking fern fronds, I chose to go with a simple recipe. Just a few basic instructions are needed to enjoy this fresh and tender taste of nature.
1. Select fronds with a rich, green color. They should be wound nice and tight. (I made the mistake of just snatching up a handful which included some that should have been discarded. Note: Take time to be selective.)
2. Once purchased, refrigerate and use within one or two days.
3. When ready to cook, trim about ¼” off the stems then place fronds in the sink and wash thoroughly. Lift them up into your hands and rinse well. This helps to remove the papery brown covering.
To prepare; boil the fronds gently for only a few minutes in enough water to cover them. Next, sauté the fronds in about a tablespoon of butter and a teaspoon of minced garlic until al dente (firm to the bite). Salt and pepper to taste and finish with a light squeeze of fresh lemon.
Our lightly sauteed fronds made a nice topping for some freshly roasted green beans. The taste profile, according to online sources, is best described as mildly nutty with flavor notes of asparagus, spinach and/or green beans. My husband and I agreed that ours were more closely aligned with a hint of asparagus. It was a delightful taste experience that we may enjoy again.
The seasonal window for fiddlehead fern fronds is extremely short and will soon be closing. Should you desire a new taste adventure give them a try. Also, read the article about Fiddleheads from Mother Earth Gardener and The Spruce Eats for more information about this springtime treasure.
A word of caution: Fiddlehead fronds must be cooked before consuming.
Linda Alexander, Dallas County Master Gardener Class of 2008
Dates to Remember:
Dallas County Master Gardener Spring Tour-April 30 and May 1st