Monday, March 08, 2010
In Season NW: There's a Fern in My Pizza!
The very first trip I made to Maine to meet my future in-laws, they made sure I tried genuine Kennebec and Katahdin potatoes grown in Aroostook County (in Maine, it's just called "The County"). They made sure to emphasize that their potatoes were grown in the rich, rocky soil of New England, unlike the potatoes grown in Idaho that they disdained as being "grown in sand."
Of course they made sure I had lobster a few times, too, sweet and luscious and served whole in the shell, unlike the odd bits mixed with other seafood I'd grown up with, included only so the restaurant could justify doubling the price of the dish. But the real revelation of the trip was an odd little green shaped like the scroll of a violin, the unfurled fronds of a young fern that are gathered along streams in the spring.
As with nettles, these first little sprouts of green that appeared in the spring were no doubt greeted with great relief by people living in northern climes who hadn't had any fresh vegetables for several months. With a flavor reminiscent of spinach and a crunch like celery, they make a great appetizer (and conversation piece) simply sautéed in olive oil and sprinkled with salt. Add bacon and shallots for a side dish or to serve over pasta.
Or do what we did: sauté them and scatter the fiddleheads over a homemade pizza for a seasonal twist. You can find them at the farmers' markets now and they should be available for the next month or so. Oh, and they also freeze quite well if you want to test any potential relatives when they come to visit.