In Season: Fiddleheads

By Matthew Kadey, RD

Although the term fiddlehead describes all coiled ferns as they break through the soil, unfurled ostrich ferns are the type we most often eat. With a flavor that resembles artichokes, asparagus, and mushrooms, fiddleheads are packed with niacin, potassium, vitamin C, and vitamin A, which promotes healthy eyes and immune systems. Select small, tightly coiled, jade-green ferns, and eat them within two days—they don’t keep well. Fiddleheads aren’t so toothsome raw, so rub off their papery scales, trim the ends, and steam, boil, or sauté for 5 minutes.

Fiddlehead Frittata
In a medium bowl, whisk together 8 eggs, 1/3 cup low-fat milk, and salt and pepper to taste; set aside. In a lightly oiled, ovenproof skillet, sauté 1?1/2 cups chopped fiddleheads, 1 cup sliced mushrooms, 1 diced tomato, and 3 teaspoons fresh thyme over medium heat for about 5 minutes. Stir egg mixture into skillet, cover, and cook over medium-low heat until sides are firm but top is still slightly runny, about 8 to 10 minutes. Place skillet under broiler until the frittata is golden and set, just 1 or 2 minutes.

Pasta with Shrimp and Fiddleheads
In a large pot, cook 12 ounces pasta according to package directions; reserve 1/4 cup pasta water. Meanwhile, cook 1 cup fiddleheads and 2 thinly sliced garlic cloves in a lightly oiled skillet until tender, about 5 minutes. Add 1 pound peeled, deveined shrimp and a dash of salt, black pepper, and red-pepper flakes; cook 3 minutes. Stir in 1/4 cup chopped cilantro, juice from 1/2 lemon, and the pasta water; cook 1 minute. Add pasta and toss to combine. Drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil.

Fiddlehead Soup
Boil 5 cups low-sodium vegetable broth in a large pot. Add 2 peeled, diced potatoes; 1 chopped onion; and 2 sprigs fresh thyme. Simmer until potatoes are very tender, about 20 minutes. Meanwhile, in a lightly oiled skillet, sauté 2 cups sliced crimini mushrooms, 2 cups chopped fiddleheads, and 2 chopped garlic cloves until tender, 5 to 7 minutes. Mix in 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, 1/4 teaspoon cayenne, and salt and pepper to taste. Remove thyme sprigs from potato mixture and add half of fiddlehead mixture to potatoes. Purée in a blender or processor in batches. Stir in remaining, unblended fiddlehead-mushroom mixture. Garnish with grated Parmesan, if desired.