We all know farmers markets are a great place to shop for pasture-raised eggs, fresh lettuce and local cheeses, but they are also a great place to discover new vegetables like fiddlehead ferns.
Fiddlehead ferns are the rolled up new leaf from certain edible fern plants, often ostrich ferns. They are crisp, and their flavor is herbaceous — like a cross between asparagus and green beans (and they can be used in many of the same recipes). Nutritionally, fiddleheads have a good amount of vitamin C, niacin and potassium.
Fiddlehead ferns are hyper-seasonal, available for a few weeks in late May and early June. Come to the farmers market early to buy them. Like morel mushrooms and ramps, these spring treats can only be foraged in limited quantities and sell out quickly.
When shopping, look for fiddleheads with bright green color and tightly coiled tops. The stem should only be 1 or 2 inches long. If it is any longer, snap it off and compost, as the texture will probably be tough.
Buying fiddleheads from a knowledgeable forager at a farmers market is the safest way to enjoy this seasonal treat, as some varieties of ferns are toxic. Fiddleheads should be steamed or sautéed, since they are difficult for most people to digest raw.
Since fiddlehead ferns are wild and not bread for storage like many common vegetables, they have a short shelf life. It is best to eat fiddleheads as soon as possible after harvest to avoid browning and loss of their crisp texture.
You can find fiddlehead ferns, asparagus, fresh pasta and all the other local ingredients you need for this simple market pasta 8 a.m.–1 p.m. Saturdays at the Mill City Farmers Market. Learn more about the market’s cooking demos, live music, free outdoor yoga, kids’ activities and more at millcityfarmersmarket.org
Asparagus with spring veggie sauté
By Beth Dooley
There’s no flavor in undercooked asparagus and not much joy when overcooked. You want it to be soft and juicy. The best way to test for doneness is to taste. What fun work! Share your photos of this spring dish with #WeeklyMarketMeal and #MillCityCooks.
- 2 Tablespoons olive or hazelnut oil
- 2 parsnips, cleaned and cut into 1-inch pieces
- 1 bundle ramps
- ½ pound fiddlehead ferns
- 1 to 1 1/2 pounds asparagus, trimmed and cut into 2-inch pieces
- ½ chop chopped red radish
- 1 to 2 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice, to taste
- 1 Tablespoon grated lemon zest
- 4 ounces Red Table Meat Co. salami, casing removed and roughly chopped
- 1–2 packages of Dumpling & Strand pasta, rice or fresh bread for serving
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Heat the oil in a large skillet and sauté the parsnips and ramps until just soft. Add the fiddleheads and asparagus, cover the pan and cook until just tender. Remove the lid and toss in the radishes. Season with lemon juice and lemon zest, and add in the salami. Serve over cooked pasta, rice or load onto thick slices of toasted country bread.