The ? vegetable, roasted

Question

This vegetable taunts and beckons me every time I walk by it at the grocery store. I have earlier compared them to caterpillers or seaweed, but now I’m thinking it looks like nothing but a question mark.

What am I? it seems to say at the grocery store. Don’t you want me? And then when I break down under the emotional blackmail and buy some, the bag sits in the fridge untouched for a couple days while I wonder what on earth to do with it. What will you do with me, huh? they say. Why did you buy me if you have no idea what to do with me? Why? How? What? And more importantly, when?

A permanent rebuke, is what it is. But I’m no slouch. I don’t let a mere vegetable sit there passing judgment on me. I’m a food blogger, is what I am.

Thus fortified, let us try to seek the heart of fiddlehead ferns once again. Here is the first such quest. I think I did better this time.

Here is the thing about fiddleheads. Their flavor is often compared to asparagus, but I feel like it has a sort of medicinal sweetness like that of artichoke, which is enhanced by cooking. The fleshy part is quite scanty compared to that of an artichoke, and comes encased in a stem, the fibrous parts of which would be nice to crisp up. So — it would be nice to fully cook the inside and crisp up the outside. Last time I had tried sautéing it and noted the difficulty of getting it to take on a char that way. So this time I tried a different method.

Blanching for 5 minutes to get the inside to cook. Then roasting in a single layer for the crispness.

Roasted fiddlehead ferns

You can see how it turned out. For me, it was finger food. Next time — add some chili powder and maybe lemon squirted on top.

Ingredients:
  • Half a pound of fiddleheads
  • 2 fat cloves of garlic
  • Olive oil — some
  • Salt — some
  • Coriander powder — some
Method:

IMG_1328 IMG_1333 IMG_1335Wash the fiddleheads by soaking in a tub of water and swirling it around and possibly rubbing the baby ferns gently. Bring about 4 cups of water to a boil and salt it. When it is boiling, put the fiddleheads in, bring to a boil once again, and let them blanch this way for about 5 minutes.

Fish them out. Lay them out on roasting pan. Cover with more salt and olive oil. Rub coriander powder all over. Place the two fat cloves of garlic tucked in in a  couple places, covered with oil also. Roast at 450°F open, for about 8 to 10 minutes. Halfway during cooking, pull it out and stir to turn most of them over.

IMG_1351IMG_1352

The garlic is also fully roasted by this point, and the paste from inside can be squeezed out like from a toothpaste tube. A teeny bit of garlic paste with a fingerful of crisp fiddlehead spindles — it was delicious.

For more information on fiddleheads (they are the immature fronds of ostrich ferns)  read this:

http://umaine.edu/publications/4198e/

and of course, don’t miss Wikipedia on the subject:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Matteuccia_struthiopteris

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15 thoughts on “The ? vegetable, roasted

    • I think they grow in colder climates…all over the US, Japan, Europe too. We only see them being sold a few weeks in the spring. They are not cultivated, just picked in the wild, so not super common. Would love to see ways of cooking it you might come up with, if you find it.

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  1. I knew they were fern-related! But I don’t think I’ve ever seen them at the store. Watch, now I’m sure I will. I like your daughter’s comparison to millipedes. Hey! Did you let Turbo Marshmallow get a taste? What was his verdict? Or is he not so picky?

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    • Turbo is a quirky one. We tried to feed him just about all the greens in the fridge, including lettuce, cabbage, peas, carrots, etc. He kept pushing them aside to get at the oats. Then we found a vegetable that he likes…completely unexpected…grass from the yard! He loves it like candy. He is just about the best-fed mouse, he gets a diet of organic rolled oats, millet seeds, wild rice, brown flax seeds, buckwheat, and lots of grass.

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  2. For a long time I’ve wanted to try to forage for fiddle heads, but I never seem to be in the right part of the world during the very short picking season. Instead, I will have to live vicariously through posts like yours, so thanks

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