Well Fiddle-Dee-Dee: Unfurling Spring Pleasures in the Forest at Ferncliff…

April 30th, 2010 § 4 comments

Fiddlehead ferns unfurling in the Secret Garden – Ostrich Fern (Matteuccia pensylvanica)

Lady fern ‘Lady in Red’ (Athyrium filix feminina), in my garden

Oh yes, we are smack-dab-in-the-middle of fiddlehead season here in the Northeast; one of spring’s most delightful and ephemeral pleasures at my forest home in Vermont. Here on my ledgy site, Ostrich ferns, (a member of the cliff fern family), are abundant; producing large, tightly curled heads as they emerge from the ground in April and early May. Of course fiddleheads are beautiful to behold, and in my garden I enjoy their delicate springtime beauty paired with spring bulbs and emerging perennials such as Lenten rose, (Helleborus x hyrbidus), and native ephemerals including foam flower, (Tiarella), dogtooth violet, (Erythronium), woodland phlox, (Phlox divaricata), bloodroot, (Sanguinaria), and spurge, (Euphorbia). All ferns produce fiddleheads, from which their feathery fronds unfurl, (I dare you to say that 10 times, fast). And some, such as the red-tips of the Lady Fern, (Athyrium filix feminina) ‘Lady in Red’, and the silvery fiddles of Cinnamon fern, (Osmunda cinnamomea), are quite stunning. But there is another reason for my fern-euphoria: this is tasty, tender fiddlehead harvest time!

Collecting Ostrich Fern Fiddleheads at Ferncliff

The Ostrich fern, (Matteuccia pensylvanica), and the Cinnamon fern, (Osmunda cinnamomea), are the most commonly harvested fiddleheads in the Northeast, and for good reason. These two large-sized native ferns produce the most delicious fiddleheads in the forest. If you’ve never gathered a fresh meal of fiddleheads from the woods, let me just give you a hint of what you are missing. To me, fiddleheads taste a bit like asparagus, only sweeter and more earthy. Although you can buy this gourmet treat in markets at this time of year, there is really no substitute for the taste of a hand-harvest. Fiddleheads can be eaten raw, (not advisable in great quantity due to possible health risks), but usually they are cooked. One of the easiest ways to prepare them is by cooking in a pot of boiling, salted water until tender, (7 -10 minutes for super fresh fiddleheads and slightly longer if the harvest has been refrigerated for a few days), and then serve them warm with a bit of butter. Although fiddleheads can be added to a variety of dishes, and also be preserved by pickling or freezing, one of my favorite ways to eat them is simply prepared in a Fiddlehead and Feta omelette…

Ferncliff Fiddlehead and Feta Omelette

Ferncliff Fiddlehead and Feta Omelette

Ingredients (makes one omelette)

3    medium sized fresh eggs

2    teaspoons of butter

1    handful of freshly harvested and lightly cooked fiddleheads

1/4 cup of fresh feta cheese

salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

Whisk three eggs together in a small bowl with a fork, (just enough to combine the yolk and white), add salt and pepper to taste. Melt butter in an 8 inch skillet on low, (do not brown). When the foam subsides, add eggs to the pan, wait a few seconds and slowly pull the egg toward the center of the pan, (this creates a fluffy, evenly cooked omelette). Cook on medium/low, and after about a half a minute, scoot the omelette over to one side and add the feta and fiddleheads. Fold the omelette in half. Cook for another half a minute or so, (pat if you like). Turn off the heat and then place a plate over the pan and flip the omelette over. Serve with a helping of fresh blanched or steamed fiddleheads and a bit of feta crumbled on top. Delicious!

Fiddleheads and Feta: Ingredients for the Perfect Morning Omelette

Mmmmm…

Ostrich fern unfurling at Ferncliff © 2010 Michaela at TGE

Shadow of a Lady Fern © Michaela at TGE

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§ 4 Responses to Well Fiddle-Dee-Dee: Unfurling Spring Pleasures in the Forest at Ferncliff…"

  • MMaddox says:

    I love this article. My husband and I lived in Japan and South Korea for a while. Fiddlehead fern dishes were very popular there. I’ve always wanted to know which ferns were harvested.

  • Deb Weyrich-Cody says:

    Hi Michaela,

    It was a hot, sunny day just like today and we were on our way home from working on the bees when he turned down a different side road. “Wait till you see this.” he said as he pulled over to the side. It was his “secret stash” of fiddleheads – Cinnamon Ferns, thousands of them blanketing both sides of the road. Even now, I can still feel the heat of the sun and smell the gravel dust stirred up by the truck’s tires.

    Thanks for bringing back a great memory of time spent with my Dad.
    Deb

  • Hi Michaela,

    I’ve never had fiddleheads before, but now I’m on a mission to find them and make this Omelet. Thankfully I live in the Northeast too (NYC), so I should be able to acquire some at the green market.

  • Michaela says:

    Hey there everyone. It’s been a long hot day here in the Green Mountains -feels more like August than May- and I notice the fern fronds are fast unfurling in my garden. Ah, the fleeting pleasures of spring! Thank you for the lovely comments. Jenné… I know you will love fiddleheads! Oh I wish I could see your face when you take your first bite! Mmmm. Have fun!!
    xo Michaela

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