Tuesday, May 11, 2010

fiddlehead fail.

A couple of weeks ago I went on 50-mile hike to help raise money for a great organization, Project USE
It was an incredibly beautiful hike through the Appalachian Trail in New Jersey, as you can see from this lovely photo that my friend and co-hiker Sarah took as we reached a peak during sunrise

It was a very strenuous, very fun hike. Along the way we saw a rabbit, a turkey vulture, even a porcupine! But most exciting was the spotting of Fiddlehead Ferns! (photo also by Sarah Gormley, thanks Sarah!)

Now I don't know about you, but I really really love fiddlehead ferns. For anyone that isn't familiar, from the lips of Wikipedia: "Fiddlehead ferns refers to the unfurled fronds of a young fern harvested for food consumption. The fiddlehead, or circinate vernation, unrolls as the fern emerges from the ground with new growth. As fiddleheads are harvested early in the season before the frond has opened and reached its full height, they are cut fairly close to the ground." From Wikipedia's mouth to your ears! we started picking them and pretty soon had a nice half pound of la fiddleheads.

I was very excited-Fiddlehead ferns have always been a treat, the sign that it really is spring, my mom would sautee them with some olive oil and garlic, and to me they have always tasted just like the color green should taste. I got home from the hike having completed 21 miles, just a tad sore (ha!), and the next day i tackled the foraged fiddlehead ferns.

As you can see from the photo of them in the salad spinner(one of my most favorite and utilized kitchen "gadget") the ferns have a fair amount of fuzz on them. Now, growing up, my mom relished fiddlehead ferns, inspiring my love for them. A vegetable that my mom does not relish, is okra. Her complaint against okra has always been that a vegetable shouldn't be furry on the outside and slimy on the inside. A complaint that makes sense, until (as I keep telling her) you make gumbo, and then okra really is the most amazing thickener! But, I digress- so I was amazed to encounter so much fur on these fiddlehead ferns. So much so, that I attempted to pick the fuzz off... ahem

so yeah i tried picking the fuzz off, thinking that the fuzz might hinder the cooking process. The photo above is not ALL the fuzz that i managed to gather from the ferns, and having never been much of a woolgatherer, I figured I would cook 'em up and see what I had.

I made sure the ferns were dry using the salad spinner and paper towels

Minced about 4+ cloves of garlic

and heated about 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet over high heat. Once the olive oil was hot, I put the minced garlic in the pan. I let the garlic sizzle for about a minute before adding the fiddlehead ferns. They become an even brighter green, and I cooked them until they had just started to brown.

To say that I was excited would be an understatment. Not only are fiddlehead ferns my favorite seasonal treat, but I had foraged them myself! The closet hippy in me was thrilled! And so I turned the burner off, plated the ferns, and took a bite.

It seems my enthusiasm was greater than my foraging and cooking skill. My fiddlehead ferns were... disappointing. They were a little bitter, the fuzz gave some of them a less than appealing texture, in sum, they just weren't... it.
So while it was with sadness that I had to admit that my foraged fiddlehead ferns fell short of foodie flawlessness, I did, as always, have fun!


  1. haha i love that you made a "fail" label, clearly anticipating that it would be a recurring pattern. And I applaud your honesty... it's important to let our public know that much like Tiger Woods, we Brooklyn Girls Cooking only *seem* amazingly superhuman and perfect. I know, I know, disillusioning. Try not to cry yourselves to sleep tonight, folks.

  2. Totally enjoyed the fiddlehead discussion and pics. Thanks for your energy and humor. Keep 'em coming!

    Kelly Case :)

  3. Hmmm. I've only ever bought them from the store in western mass, but they really are good!