Fiddleheads look like something out of a Tim Burton film, but these mild greens are a delicacy prized by chefs and available for only a few weeks in spring. Want to give them a try? Here’s where.
What the heck’s a fiddlehead?
These mild-tasting greens are the curled-up fronds of an ostrich fern. In Ontario, they are harvested for a few weeks in spring before the fronds open. Here’s where you can find them in Toronto.
Great Cooks on Eight
Andrea Nicholson roasts her fiddleheads and adds them to homemade pappardelle in a smoked pork hock ragu. “Fiddleheads have a really earthy quality, so they go well with an aggressive flavour like pork,” she says.
$16, 401 Bay St., 416-203-1077 (lunch only).
Robert Bartley serves his pan-roasted halibut fillet with fiddleheads, ramps (wild leeks) and hedgehog mushrooms, all sautéed in a garlic-herb butter.
$36, 15 York St., 416-815-1111.
For his spring gnocchi, Rocco Agostino tosses blanched fiddleheads with guanciale (cured pork cheeks), garlic and Pecorino cheese.
$16, 1288 Dundas St. W., 416-534-1200.
David Lee serves his fiddleheads by sautéing them in butter, then finishing them with lemon juice and capers, though every so often he makes the staff fiddlehead kimchee by blanching
then marinating them.
$8–$10, 180 Queen St. W., 416-977-6400.
Forbes Wild Foods
Seth Goering forages for these fickle greens during their short growing season, then he pickles them in a lemon marinade and jars them. Goering’s fiddleheads are sold at such farmers’ markets as the Brick Works, Dufferin Grove and Wychwood Barns (or you can call 877-354-9453). $9.
Goering describes how to forage for fiddleheads: “I head up to Springwater Township in Simcoe. I’ve heard rumours of fiddleheads being spotted in Don Valley, but those plants may not be the cleanest. Fiddleheads regenerate, so once you have a patch, you can come back again and again, if you’re careful. The fronds almost always grow in odd numbers and if there’s only one fiddlehead on the plant, you have to leave it alone. If there are three, you can take one; five, you can take two. This season, we’ve harvested about 400 pounds.”
Fiddleheads are toxic when raw. To prepare them for cooking, discard any brown skin and rinse for five minutes (which helps remove any bitterness). Cook them like asparagus: steamed, sautéed in butter or grilled. You can still get them at farmers’ markets as well as at most Loblaws, Metro and No Frills stores.