Fiddle Head Ferns

I came across these pretty ladies at the Ballard Farmer’s Market this weekend:

Lady Fiddle Head Ferns on a market table

I couldn’t resist. For my first official blog post, they seemed like a pretty safe bet. Nothing terrible has ever come out of something so green and cute and curly, right? I bought half a pound for $5.00, and then began looking into fiddlehead ferns. As it turns out, these ladies have a duplicitous personality–they’re either toxic or tender. When raw, they contain a toxin that can cause terrible stomach pain, so they must be heated and prepared properly before they’re eaten.

A lot of what I read agreed with the sign on the marketeers table that said fiddleheads are great blanched and fried with bacon. I also came across an angel hair pasta and fiddlehead fern recipe. I decided to combine the two ideas, and made fettuccine carbonara guest starring fiddlehead ferns.

1: Blanching

I laid out a pretty solid rule in the first post about not killing Chops or myself. In keeping with that rule, it was important to blanch the fern tips before I did anything else with them. I trimmed off the brown parts and discarded any curls that weren’t tightly formed. (I read that the tips that aren’t tightly curled could be more likely to carry food-bourne illness. It was only one website, so it could be complete hogwash, but better to be safe than sorry, I suppose.) They frolicked around in boiling water for 4min and emerged fresh, clean, and much more tender:

Steamed Fiddlehead Ferns

2: Pasta!

I used the following recipe as the general guideline for making the fettuccini carbonara:

I added one additional step: once the bacon had been fried to my liking, I sauteed the fiddle head ferns in the rendered fat until tender.

Frying Fiddlehead Ferns

Once some of the smaller tendrils started losing their shape, I considered them done, drained away the excess grease, and served.

3: The Verdict

Fettuccini Carbonara with Fiddlehead Ferns

“Well, what do you think?” I asked Chops after his first few bites.
“I think I like it. They kind of have a little earthy taste to them. What do you think?”
“I like them. The ones that aren’t quite cooked enough have  a bitter taste to them, though.”
“I’ve definitely gotten one or two that are bitter. But the texture’s good. They’re kind of like little curled up asparaguses.”
“That makes total sense. I read they can be used as a substitute for asparagus in a lot of recipes.”
“Do they have the interactive pee smell?”
“The interactive pee smell?”
“Yeah, how asparagus makes your pee smell funny! You forget that you ate it, and then go to the bathroom and it’s like, OH YEAH! HELLLLLO ASPARAGUS! Will these do that?”
I started laughing. “You know, I don’t know. I guess we’ll have to find out.”

Sometime around 3am, I felt Chops get up out of bed. I took a quick sip of water before dozing off again. A minute or so later, he climbed back into bed and nudged me a little.
“Hmph,” I said.
“You know. I have to say, my pee did smell a little different.”


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