Jar of Pickled Fiddleheads
Springtime has us eagerly awaiting the bounty of fresh produce that the summer brings. Maine’s growing season is short and starts slowly with spring greens, rhubarb, asparagus, and wild foraged foods, like ramps and fiddleheads. Fiddleheads are the young shoots of ostrich ferns. When picked before they unfurl, they are a delicacy that satisfies our craving for fresh, local produce with a flavor that’s similar to asparagus.
Fiddleheads are foraged or gathered where they grow wild along the banks of rivers and streams. They can be purchased at local markets, farm stands, and roadside stands. Recently proposed legislation will attempt to ensure that the harvest of wild foods, such as mushrooms and fiddleheads, is done with landowner permission.
Fiddleheads should be well cleaned and blanched before eating, since they can cause symptoms similar to food poisoning if consumed raw. See this UMaine Extension publication for more information on cooking and preserving fiddleheads, as well as tips for harvesting sustainably. For cooking ideas, substitute fiddleheads into any recipe that calls for asparagus or spring peas. Combine them with Maine shrimp for a locavore’s delight.
Shrimp and Fiddlehead Medley
1 pound fiddleheads
6 ounces linguine, uncooked
6 cups water
1-3/4 pounds Maine shrimp, fresh or frozen
1 teaspoon margarine
2/3 cup onion, chopped
1/2 cup green pepper, diced
1/2 pound fresh mushrooms, sliced
1 teaspoon thyme
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon celery seed
2 tablespoons lemon juice
Cut off ends of fiddleheads. Remove scales and wash thoroughly. Bring water to a boil in a large saucepan; add shrimp and cook three to five minutes, or until done. Drain well, and set aside. Cook fiddleheads in boiling water for ten minutes. Drain. Coat a large, nonstick skillet with cooking spray; add margarine. Heat until margarine melts. Add onion and green pepper and sauté until crisp-tender. Stir in fiddleheads. Meanwhile, cook pasta as directed, without salt or oil. Drain well, set aside and keep warm.
Add sliced mushrooms, thyme, pepper, salt and celery seeds to vegetable mixture; stir well. Cook, uncovered, over medium heat three to four minutes or until mushrooms are tender, stirring often. Stir in shrimp and lemon juice; cook until heated through, stirring often.
Place pasta on a large platter. Spoon shrimp mixture on top. Serve immediately. Serves 6.