New Englanders are quite familiar with this unique produce. However, I imagine that for most people, fiddleheads are some sort of alien vegetable. We had never heard of them prior to arriving in Maine, but upon seeing a display of these dark green coils piled high at the farmers’ market, we were immediately intrigued and excited by this local delicacy.
The unfurled fronds of the ostrich fern are only available for a short time every spring: from about the end of April through the beginning of June. These wild vegetables are harvested along the banks of rivers and streams when the fronds are between two and six inches off the ground and the fern is still tightly curled up like the scroll of a fiddle.
You know it’s spring when you see the fiddleheads.
This year we tried out a couple of new preparations. Here is a quick and easy one.
1 pound, or so, Fiddleheads
1/4 cup Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
2 medium Red Bell Peppers
Zest of 1 Lemon
3 Cloves Garlic, sliced
1/2 Cup Black Olives, sliced
Salt and Pepper to taste
First things first, clean the fiddleheads by removing any brown colored or woody stem ends. If there is any of the papery brown chaff stuck on, you’ll want to remove that as well. Most often that has already been removed. Then rinse the ferns well in 2-3 changes of water. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and blanch the fiddleheads for about 3 minutes. Place in an ice bath until cool. Strain them out and pat dry.
Preheat oven to 500F degrees. Put the fiddleheads in a bowl with the olive oil, bell peppers, garlic, salt, and pepper; toss well. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper and add the fiddlehead mixture. Roast for 6-8 minutes stirring once halfway through, they should be cooked thoroughly, but not mushy.
Transfer the roasted vegetables to a serving bowl. Toss with the lemon zest and black olives. Finish with a sprinkling of flaked sea salt and a lemon wedge.