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Monday, April 23, 2012

Your Seasonal Produce Guide: Fiddlehead Ferns

Posted By on Mon, Apr 23, 2012 at 9:00 AM

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A SFoodie series on what to do with your farmers' market impulse buys and CSA box surprises.

Fiddleheads, a springtime delicacy, are the edible coils of the immature Ostrich fern. They are foraged early in the season, before the ferns unravel. The taste is often likened to mild and slightly bitter asparagus, with the crunch of a fresh green bean. The season is very short and they can be difficult to find, outside of specialty stores and markets. If you are on the hunt, check Bi-Rite, the Ferry Building farmers' market and Berkeley Bowl.

How do I buy them? Unless you are an experienced forager, leave the harvesting of fiddlehead ferns to the professionals. There are several varieties of similar looking ferns, which are unsafe to eat.

Fiddleheads should be crisp with bright color. Cook them soon after purchased, as they won't last long in the fridge.

How do I eat them? Wash them well and peel off any silk (thin, brown, papery skin) that hasn't been removed. Eating the ferns raw is not advised. They must be fully cooked first.

Simple preparations work best. Elaborate dishes can overpower and mask the unique flavor and texture of the fiddleheads. We recommend sauteing them in butter with fresh, minced garlic or shallots. Season with Kosher salt or sea salt and serve immediately.

Marla Simon is a chef instructor, food stylist, and food writer.

Follow her on twitter at @Marla_Simon

Follow us at: @sfoodie, and like us on Facebook.

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Marla Simon

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