What are they: Fiddlehead ferns are an early spring-summer vegetable with a flavor reminiscent of asparagus. These green, coiled delicacies are young fern fronds that have not fully matured. Fiddlehead ferns can be eaten lightly cooked or pickled.
How I discovered them: By late March, you can sometimes see the earliest fiddlehead crops popping up at the farmers’ market—but wait a few months, and you’ll see them springing up on restaurant menus across the city. In recent years, I’ve enjoyed them pickled with halibut cheeks at Sitka & Spruce, and paired with morels and salmon at Emmer & Rye.
How to use them in the kitchen: Blanch fiddleheads in boiling water for a minute before transferring them to an ice bath to cool. Then, either use the fiddleheads in a salad or sauté them in butter (or your choice of cooking fat) to bring out their inherent nutty taste.
Where to find them: You can buy fiddlehead ferns for $9–$12 from Foraged and Found Edibles (foragedandfoundedibles.com), or at area farmers’ markets, including the Queen Anne Farmers’ Market on Thursdays, the University Farmers’ Market on Saturdays, and the Ballard and West Seattle Farmers’ Markets on Sundays.
Fiddlehead Ferns with Bacon, Morels and Summer Corn
1/2 lb. fiddlehead ferns, cleaned
6 strips thick-cut bacon, diced
3 Tbsp. unsalted butter
1/2 lb. morels, cleaned
2/3 cup fresh corn kernels
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
In a pot of boiling water, blanch the fiddlehead ferns for 1 minute. With a slotted spoon or spider, transfer the fiddleheads into a large bowl filled with ice water to cool.
In a large cast-iron pan, brown the diced bacon on medium-high heat until crisp, about 6 minutes. Remove the bacon with a slotted spoon and transfer to a plate lined with paper towels to drain. Reserve the drippings in the pan.
Add the butter to the drippings. Continuing on medium-high heat, add the morels. Cook until the mushrooms begin to caramelize in the hot fat, about 4 minutes. Add the corn kernels and continue cooking until the corn begins to turn golden, about 2 minutes. Add the fiddlehead ferns to the pan, and season with salt and pepper. When the fiddleheads have come up to temperature, add the bacon back into the pan and toss to combine.
Serve hot as a side dish to grilled steaks, chicken or ribs.