Sautéed Fiddlehead Ferns with Sorrel and Garlic

31 03 2009
Cooked Fiddlehead Ferns

Sautéed Fiddlehead Ferns

As inspired by the farmers market and this recipe.  There is a booth at our farmer’s market that sells wild foraged items and this week I saw and wanted the fiddlehead ferns! I’ve heard about them but never tried them…yet.  I actually went there looking for sting nettles (I let my last batch go bad! EK!) but they were out of them. Thankfully they were just out of them for the day and not the “season”; which really didn’t seem right anyway knowing nettles.

Anyway I picked up some fiddlehead ferns for a friend of mine and us. Ironically, my friend and I were talking about fiddlehead ferns a few weeks earlier (I think in reference to my excitement of nettles) so I gave her a call and picked her up a lb of ’em. At this point I still had no idea what to do with them EXACTLY…. well that isn’t entirely true. I had consulted pocked Internet to know that basically I could stir-fry them up and it would work.  So I was planning on putting some into the jchoke gratin last night but got lazy. 

Anywho…Ferns.  So tonight we sauteed them up. Sounds simple no? Yes and no. The cooking wasn’t really hard but prepping them wasn’t muscle-less!

"Fresh" Fiddlehead Ferns - (read dirty!)

"Fresh" Fiddlehead Ferns - (read dirty!)

Turns out fiddlehead ferns have a bit of “skin” on them.  From what I could tell most sellers strip most of the peanut skin like skin off before they sell them but some is left on. In the picture above the best I can figure it is the dark brown “hair” on the ferns and on the bottom of the pan.  Mostly it seemed like little flaps of the skin were left on with the majority of it covering the tightly wound fiddlehead part itself.  Each. One. Had to be cleaned by hand. Luckily for us beginners we only had about 1/3 lb of them to do. Like this:

Cleaning Da Ferns

Cleaning Da Ferns

Most websites recommend doing this in cold water…well my hands couldn’t handle it so I was doing it in warm water.  I tried the technique of putting them into a bowl with cold water and swishing them around till all the brown skin bits feel off but I only got maybe 1/2 of the skin so I resorted to one at a time and developed the following technique:

The "Spring" Cleaning Technique

The "Spring" Cleaning Technique

Turns out I could stick my finger in the middle of the coil and pop it out, clean it, and pop it all back together! I was telling the sous chef while it was tedious to clean them it was at least a bit of fun and not just boring and tedious.  But while cleaning them the sous chef pointed this one out particularly because it looked like a snail:

"Snail" Imposter

"Snail" Impostor

Don’t worry. The snail impostor wasn’t cleaned yet :) But after lots of work and chopping off the brown ends we ended up with nice and clean fiddlehead ferns:


"Clean" Fiddleheads

After that it was pretty simple. The recipe called for parsley but I used some sorrel I had from the market this week. Diced the sorrel and garlic up. Sauteed it all for about 5 minutes and then served it. 

Overall, the fiddleheads were good.  I had forgot to put salt on them so the addition of a bit of salt went a long way to cutting out the slight bitter flavor they still have.  They were crunchy like green beans, firm like asparagus, and a bit slimy like okra.  Not like any of them and none of those attributes great enough to really deter me (and the slime on okra totally does for reference).  But I think I could have prepared them in a way that really stood out and popped their flavor more.  So next time I will try something with a pasta base or something but there certainly will be a second time.




2 responses

31 03 2009
CN Heidelberg

We made fiddleheads once in Boston. Yeah, they took forever to prepare! Then we ate them and they were pretty alright. However, they were thereafter known as “fartleheads” and we haven’t made them again. hehehe

6 04 2009

:( I made the sous chef try them again this week… she wasn’t happy about the cleaning again but I think they turned out better. So far the gas levels though seem to have hovered around normal in these parts. :)

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