Foraging Wild Edibles

Fiddleheads are at City Market, and if you can find them in the store, you can find them along banks of rivers, streams, and wet, shady areas.

Looking for fiddleheads

The fiddleheads are early this year. Named for their beautiful curled shape, similar to the scroll of a violin, they are also called ostrich ferns (presumably for their plume when they unfurl), and have a nutty taste. They are best picked when they are just poking out of the ground, before they start to unfurl. You want them to be tightly coiled and firm. They grow in clumps, and you should always leave a few in the clump where you found them to help regenerate more growth next year.

At City Market, we have relationships with a few foragers of wild edibles who bring us their goods in baskets and sacks. As our consumers have grown more interested in wild edibles, we have been able to take on a wider variety of foraged foods: right now, we have fiddleheads, ramps, wild Jerusalem artichokes, and even wild day lilies!

To cook fiddleheads, you want to remove any papery chaff clinging to them, wash them well, and boil or sauté them just until they start to change color. 8-10 minutes seems to be about right. They should have a little crunch to them. Undercook them and they have a little bitterness. Overcook them and they turn pea-soup green. I’ve had the best luck with sautéing them. They pair naturally well with wild ramps, which have a flavor somewhere between onions and garlic. My rule of thumb for wild edibles is, if you don’t know what to do with them, put them on flatbread! (This works particularly well if you have kids at home.)

To make the flatbread, I used the same pizza dough recipe I have written up before, but before I spread the toppings on, I prebaked the crust for about 8 minutes to make a flatter, crispier flatbread. My other favorite fiddlehead recipe is also below. It's just the beginning of fiddlehead season, so I hope you have a chance to get out and forage some of your own. If not, there are beautiful fiddleheads at City Market.

Here are some pictures, followed by the recipes:
On the trail with moms and kids.
Linnea, going with the flow. ("What's that you say we're looking for?")
These fiddleheads are just the right size to pick. Always leave a few on the clump to ensure growth next year.
Our haul in the basket. We've rubbed the papery chaff off, then shaken the basket to get all the chaff out.
Ramps. Fresh from City Market.
Fiddleheads and ramps, almost ready to be taken off the heat.
Fiddlehead and ramp pizza - part with goat cheese, part with Vermont Ayr cheese. Delicious!
Fiddlehead & Ramp Pizza
One pizza dough
2 cups fiddleheads
6 wild ramps
A couple of Tbs. olive oil
Sprinkle of salt and freshly ground pepper
1 1/2 cups tomato sauce
1 cup grated hard cheese (such as Vemont Ayr)
A few dollops fresh goat cheese (such as Does Leap)
Clean fiddleheads and ramps. Heat olive oil in a pan and add whole fiddleheads and diced ramps. Cook about 8-10 minutes, or until almost tender. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Preheat oven to 450. Roll pizza dough to fit a baking pan. Roll as thinly as possible. Prick with a fork and bake in preheated oven for about 8 minutes, or until slightly golden (but not cooked through). Spread with tomato sauce, fiddlehead and ramp mixture, and cheese (you can put the cheese on both sides of the pizza or split up the cheese the way we did). Bake for about 10-12 minutes, or until bubbly. Serves 2-3.
Roasted Fiddleheads
¾ pound fiddleheads
2 Tbs. olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
Preheat oven to 400. Wash fiddleheads in several changes of water. Remove any browned or tough tips. Pat dry and toss with olive oil. Lay on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Season with salt and pepper and roast for 20-25 minutes or until fiddleheads are browned slightly but still a little juicy. Serves 4.
Sautéed Fiddleheads
1 pound fiddleheads
2 shallots, finely chopped
1 Tbs. soy sauce
¼ cup olive oil or butter
1 tsp. honey
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
¼ cup white wine
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Clean fiddleheads and steam in a little water until just tender (about 8-10 minutes). Meanwhile, heat butter or olive oil in a large frying pan and sauté shallots and garlic until just softened. Mix together soy sauce, honey, and wine. Add to pan along with steam fiddleheads, turning to coat them well in the sauce. Serve at once. Serves 4.