There are a bunch of signs that Spring has sprung. We all have our own. Apricots, asparagus, cherries, the first peaches, English peas. All viable options for a solid “Spring is Here” Instagram post to be sure.
For me, it’s fiddlehead ferns and morel mushrooms.
Fiddlehead what and morel huh?
Let’s start with Fiddlehead Ferns. One of my favorite vegetables ever. And definitely my favorite food named after the tuning end of an old-timey instrument.
Every spring, when the winter’s snow pack melts and runs down hillsides in Oregon, Washington and Maine (the fiddleheads at GROW come from Oregon), temporary little mountain streams are created. When the melt subsides, and the temporary little rivers go dry fiddlehead ferns pop up. They are the barely unfurled fronds of the young Ostrich Fern. Prized for their flavor, not to mention unique appearance, fiddlehead foragers ascend every spring with knife and canvas sack. Wait too long and the fronds have matured to the point that they’re inedible.
What to do with them? The basic rules are: 1. trim the bottom, 2. blanch for 3 minutes or so, 3. ice bath, 4. the rest is up to you. Sautee, roast, or treat them like you would asparagus. The flavor is a mix of green, earthy and sweet. I say the flavor is a cross between asparagus and artichoke.
Are Morel mushrooms the Cadillac of fungi? There’s an argument to be made.
So unique, with their conical, latticed cap and hollow insides. Morels pop up each spring, generally around the decaying wood of fallen deciduous trees; sycamore, oak, poplar. They also grow heartily in areas of forest that are recently burned by fire, though no one is really sure why.
What to do with them? Again, the rules are simple: 1. clean them as best you can, 2. dry them thoroughly, 3. treat them like a mushroom. Saute them in butter, add them to a pan sauce for roasted chicken with a little cream and Madeira, or batter them in egg and cracker to deep fry them (trust me).
For a brief time every Spring, these foraged favorites collide. This week is one of those weeks.
And the greatest recipe that brings both of these foraged springtime delicacies together, we turn to Emeril Lagasse. Yes. The much maligned peddler of pork fat has a Morel and Fiddlehead Ragu recipe that is insane.
Click here for the link.
I found it almost a decade ago. Follow the recipe EXACTLY. Seriously, it’s perfect. Serve over pasta, grilled chicken or salmon, or as a sauce atop a side of faro. Or eat it out of a bowl with a spoon.