Fiddlehead Ferns for Dinner

I am so thrilled with my warabi, or fiddle-head ferns.  The little patch of them in a side garden by some rocks has grown and is thriving.  We are now having lovely fern shoots as a vegetable from time to time, and I don't need to go out in the boonies and forage.

Whether you know them as warabi (Japanese), ho‘i‘o (Hawaiian) or ostrich fern (most of the mainland), the fiddle-head ferns are the young, edible, tightly coiled shoots of the fern that resemble the end of a violin or fiddle. The shoots remain coiled for about two-weeks before they unfurl into the delicate, lacy greenery we are all familiar with.

The species most commonly found in Hawai‘i is the Pteridium aquilinum, which grows in temperate and sub-tropical regions. It was introduced to the islands by Japanese immigrants who value it mainly for the young stems rather than the unfurled coils. Certain varieties of the plant contain the carcinogenic compound Ptaquiloside and need to be cooked thoroughly before eating.

Fiddle-head ferns are a very rich source of antioxidants Omega 3 and Omega 6, high in iron and fiber, and loaded with Vitamins A and C. They retain a deep green color even after cooking, and the taste is similar to a combination of asparagus, green beans, and young, tender okra.

It is usual to add them to salads of various sorts, however, they are an excellent addition to many entrees.  I did a pan bake recently, a technique you may have heard of.  There's even a recent cookbook out about it (Molly Gilbert's Sheet Pan Suppers).  This is actually a method I have used for quite awhile, based on an old recipe for baked chicken thighs.  Just kept adding more extras to the pan as time went on.  Until it was the whole dinner.

If you are using chicken thighs, all the veggies would go in at the same time as the meat (and it should be a 1/2 hour covered with foil and 1/2 hour uncovered).  However, as I was using fish, with a shorter cooking time, I started out with some veggies, in this case orange bell, and onion, tossed in a bit of olive oil and baked about 5 minutes at 400F.  Then added the fish, (mine was an ahi fillet).  Sprinkle on salt, pepper, perhaps some herbs, a bit more oil and bake until the fish is just done.  Then I added a bunch of fern shoots, which had been chopped in 1 inch segments, and boiled briefly.  Finally, tossed in some left-over, nuked pasta, and voila. Delicious Dinner.

What a blessing having those ferns available year round.  I am linking this post to Beth Fish Reads's Weekend Cooking show.


Vicki said...

I've never heard of fiddle-head ferns. That recipe sounds terrific!

Esme said...

I love fiddleheads-unfortunately we do not get them in So. Cal.

Claudia said...

Thanks Vicki, and Esme I believe they will grow fine in a nice indoor pot, with only partial sun, just watered regularly. Would be pretty too.

Roberta said...

Interesting, I just was reading a historical recipe for potato salad that called for fiddlehead ferns. I had never thought of trying to grow them indoors.

Claudia said...

Roberta, good idea, now I want to put them in potato salad.