Wild for Fiddlehead Ferns
Opening day at the Brattleboro Area Farmers’ Market was a celebration of green, effectively marking the beginning of spring in southern Vermont. With tender young turnips and their tops, young lettuce mixes, and wild leeks to welcome me, I am reminded of why I fell in love with the Green Mountain State and made the move of my dreams here from New York City several years ago.
After toasting to the season with a glass of naturally fermented peach kefir from a market vendor, I went in search of a key ingredient for a curry I had on the menu for the evening’s upcoming Indian potluck: fiddlehead ferns.
The fiddlehead fern, the magical furled fronds of a young fern, looks like the scroll at the end of a violin; the taste is grassy, with hints of asparagus and artichoke. Fiddleheads are high in omega fatty acids and are a good source of iron and fiber, making them a fantastic spring energizer. They are available only for a short time during the season, and they are a true wild food, only found through foraging. (Note that many varieties of fern are poisonous, so make sure you’re an expert before you decide to search out your own, and do not eat them raw, as they can cause gastric upset.)
I had no idea that ferns, so much a part of my personal culinary and geographical landscape, were also savored in Southeast Asia until I flipped through my copy of James Oseland’s Cradle of Flavor to find his recipe for an Indonesian fern curry. My Fiddlehead Fern Curry recipe is adapted from his, with some added Indian flavor notes to keep with the theme of the evening’s dinner.
Leda Scheintaub’s latest work is The Sage and the Cook: Two Generations of Gluten and Dairy Free Cooking, an e-book series in collaboration with whole foods pioneer Rebecca Wood. The first book in the series is Soups and Stews, available from Amazon for $2.99. She is also the coauthor (with Denise Mari) of the forthcoming Organic Avenue; coauthor (with Carol Alt) of Easy, Sexy Raw; the recipe developer for The Ciao Bella Book of Gelato and Sorbetto; and author of Chipotle: Smoky Hot Recipes for All Occasions. She is also a graduate of the chef’s training program at the Natural Gourmet Institute in New York. She has been a freelance writer, editor, and recipe tester for the past ten years. She lives with her husband in southern Vermont, where you’ll often find her at the Brattleboro Area Farmers’ Market.