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Halved fiddlehead ferns

Fiddling in the Fields: Try My Favorite Spring Fern

Dale Carson

This odd weather year seems to have Mother Nature a little off schedule. I take that back; she is always doing what she must to keep things in balance, although green grass poking through light snow is not a normal sight in mid-April. 

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There is nary a sign of chive or dandelion yet either. Oh, well, a few warm days should bring these friends out to play. 

The prolific Ostrich ferns, which grow in several places here on our land in presentday New England, are still hiding, too. I can’t wait; fiddleheads are worth it. They do need to be cleaned thoroughly, then soaked in cold water to be sure the dirt is completely removed. Then, they should be dried on a clean cloth or paper towels. 

They taste like a cross between asparagus and artichoke, still keeping their own unique flavor.  Fiddleheads have a very short growing season, so if you just want to try them and you're not conveniently near a patch of ferns, I recommend buying some in the supermarket, because they are all cleaned and ready to cook. We like them steamed and chilled for salads, but I discovered this great recipe below for a main dish.

Fiddlehead Fettucine

1 pound fiddleheads, cleaned
3 tablespoons butter or olive oil
3 medium to large Portobello mushroom caps, sliced
3 strips bacon, cooked, drained and set aside
1 sweet onion, sliced or chopped
½ red bell or yellow, cut in ½-inch slices (optional)
1 pound fettuccine, cooked ahead and drained
Fresh-Grated Parmesan cheese for topping

Use a large sauté pan, melt the butter or olive oil and sauté  the onion, pepper, mushrooms, and the fiddleheads for about 3 minutes. Arrange the fettuccine on a large serving platter and cover with the vegetables and crumbled bacon. Garnish the top with fresh grated parmesan cheese.

Dale Carson, Abenaki, is the author of three books: New Native American Cooking, Native New England Cooking and A Dreamcatcher Book. She has written about and demonstrated Native cooking techniques for more than 30 years. Dale has four grown children and lives with them and her husband in Madison, Connecticut.

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