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Fiddlehead ferns

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Fiddlehead ferns

zora | May 25, 2002 09:50 PM

Thursday, at the local dog park, here in DC, I was chatting with a woman while our pups played. She has a summer home in the Northeast Kingdom in Vermont, and I used to live in southeast Vermont. We were discussing wild foods--berries and mushrooms that we'd enjoyed foraging for in Vermont. She'd eaten fiddleheads but had never gathered them, and we agreed that they were the absolute, flat-out most delicious vegetable we'd ever eaten. I hadn't talked about or thought about fiddleheads in eons. The next day, I was at Trader Joe's in Bailey's Crossroad, Virginia, and they were selling fresh fiddleheads from Canada. It had to be some sort of synchronicity-- I've never seen fresh fiddleheads for sale this far from New England. I prepared them tonight--simply steamed after rinsing and trimming browned stem ends, and served with hollandaise. Hardly any flavor at all! I can only assume that they were picked too long ago, and in the process of transport and storage, they lost their pizzaz. In Vermont, we used to gather a variety called ostrich fern, with a brown, papery cover that we had to peel off, which had a complex, wonderful flavor something like a cross between asparagus, artichoke and manna from heaven. Other ferns, with fuzzy covering, tasted bitter and awful. I presumed that in Canada, they would have picked the same variety, ostrich fern.
Could these have been a different edible fern? Any culinary botanists out there who could edify me? Anybody else love fiddleheads?

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