Fiddleheads – Fail!
I was eyeing this strange new greens with a lot of interest when I saw them in the stores, last year. Fiddleheads (Ostrich fern’s young frond curled tightly) are not anything new to me but cooking it was a novel idea. It is a seasonal delicacy in Spring and I was naturally drawn to it. Being a green food it has to be good was my deduction.
We never know where our fantasies can take us! Ferns are familiar to me as I come from a tropical rain forest region that has thousands of them. Kerala could be called ‘Ferns own country’ as I have seen many varieties, sprouting on rocky fences, under shady trees, also in every nook and cranny. It is wonderful to watch those tight curls of the fronds unfurl slowly into new leaves. It is like life opening up and spreading its magic. When we were children, we used to press an older frond on the back of our hand to get an instant tattoo which was an impression of the leaves by a powdery white stuff under it. I am intrigued by the fact that a common thing growing in abundance was never eaten by the people in that part of the world.
Personally, I have never considered them edible or tasted them. However, I love the new trend of eating more greens. To be honest, eating it was a mere curiosity! I certainly had to pay the price!
Picking ferns from the wild is not a good idea as some are poisonous. I bought them from the store that follows food safety regulations and standards. So they were 100% edible and safe! Before cooking, I took a bite out of one Fiddlehead and had to spit it immediately. It tasted like dirt and had the smell of rotting humus in the soil.
Was I discouraged? Ah…not me! I decided to take the bull by the horns and so cooked it. Firstly, I blanched it in hot water according to the directions on the pack, to remove the disgust out of it. On plunging it in boiling water, the water turned murky like dirty water with an unpleasant odour. Next, I drained the water and gathered my Fiddleheads for they are pricey. It costs like $5 for a 250 gram pack. I found some salad suggestions online. With the bitter experience of the first bite I wanted to cook it in oil.
Here is my failed attempt and I swore then, never to try it again. I thought seriously that I shouldn’t post it. Then there was a second thought…what if someone is curious like me and ventured to try it. So this could act like a warning – ‘Proceed to cook at your own risk!’
- 1 pack Fiddleheads
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tsp sesame seeds
- 2 cloves garlic
- salt & pepper
- 1 tbsp lemon juice
- slivered almonds to garnish
- Wash Fiddleheads and trim the brown ends.
- Boil water in a large pot and dip the fiddleheads to blanch. (Next time I should leave it longer, like for 15 minutes)
- Heat oil in a pan and sauté sliced garlic and add sesame seeds.
- Add blanched fiddleheads and sprinkle salt and pepper.
- Mix well and cook until soft but retaining the crunch.
- Season with lemon juice, slivered almonds and more olive oil.
When I emptied the contents of the pack the fiddleheads showed browning at the tip like they were bruised. After chopping off the end it started browning instantly and that imparted a bitter taste. It tastes and stains like raw banana. For raw banana, I immerse the chopped pieces in dilute buttermilk to remove the brown stain. I think I should try it with Fiddleheads too.
I cooked it and tasted it. It left a bad taste in the mouth but I had to eat a large chunk as all others refused to touch it. It was a big fail! I consoled myself…Failures teach us! These are stepping stones for new ideas to sprout!
I am not going to give up so easily! I have a new recipe for next Spring. I have learned a thing or two from my attempt.
- Rinse it clean and soak it in buttermilk
- Cook it longer to make it softer
- Add a lot of other ingredients to camouflage the bitterness.
See you next year, Fiddleheads! In the meantime, anyone who supports these curls can suggest a palatable solution! I am open to suggestions and criticisms!