Previously, I promised a tasty recipe provided by April, our resident morel mushroom hunter, one that incorporated another rare springtime delicacy, the fiddlehead fern. You may only be passingly familiar with the fiddlehead, but if you're out hunting morels, you might find these bounties as well.
What Are Fiddlehead Ferns?
Technically, there is no such thing as a “fiddlehead” fern. A fiddlehead is basically any young fern that hasn't unfurled yet, and thus looks much like the head of a violin – and “violin-head fern” doesn't really roll off the tongue.
Fiddleheads were a staple of many Native American tribes' diet, and they've been used in Indian and Asian cuisines for centuries. Fiddleheads are good and good for you, they're high in omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, iron, and dietary fiber. They have been described as tasting somewhere between asparagus and an artichoke.
Depending on the location, fiddleheads can be found at some roadside markets, or in some regional grocery stores, especially in the Northeast.
Where Do I Find Them?
Most ferns like cool, shady areas beneath trees – which also fits prime morel territory to a T. Fiddleheads, like morels, are only available in the spring, before the fronds have unfurled. When picking fiddleheads, don't harvest all the fronds off of a plant, as this can kill it. For every eight fronds, take no more than three.
I've Heard That Fiddleheads Are Poisonous
The most commonly consumed fern is the ostrich fern, although all varieties are edible. One species, the bracken fern, does contain minute amounts of ptalquiloside, a known carcinogen. However, this molecule is water-soluble and heat-sensitive, so if you thoroughly clean and cook your fiddleheads, you shouldn't encounter any problems – aside from wanting more.
This recipe combines both morels and fiddleheads with a gluten-free pasta. It may not be low calorie, but it sure is delicious.
Gluten-free Fettucine Alfredo with Morels & Fiddleheads
1 oz fiddlehead ferns
1 oz (or more!) morel mushrooms, fresh or dehydrated
6 tbsp. butter
6 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 medium yellow onion, diced
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup fresh Parmesan cheese
1/2 tsp. salt (or to taste)
1/2 tsp. black pepper (or to taste)
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
Splash of dry white wine, such as pinot grigio
1 tbsp. cashew flour (optional)
1 cup brown rice fettuccine noodles
If using dehydrated mushrooms, add mushrooms to a bowl of warm water and let soak for 15-20 minutes to fully rehydrate. Note that, by weight, use dehydrated mushrooms to fresh mushrooms at a 1:6 ratio, so 1 cup of dehydrated mushrooms is equivalent to six cups of fresh mushrooms
Bring a stockpot of salted water to a boil. Add fettuccine and cook until al dente, then drain.
Melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add mushrooms and fiddleheads saute until almost done, then add garlic and onions. Saute until tender or onions turn translucent. (Morels take longer to cook than other mushrooms.)
Add heavy cream, salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes and bring to a simmer. Add fresh grated Parmesan cheese (never the canned stuff) and wine. If you want a thicker sauce, add the cashew butter.
Toss the noodles in with the sauce and serve.