We're just on the cusp of a very short-lived fiddlehead season, and if you want to take advantage of these tender lovelies you'll have to act fast. Named for their violin scroll shape, fiddleheads are a fern's new growth. In the Pacific Northwest, the fern of choice is the lady fern. On the East coast, the ostrich fern reigns.
While fiddleheads are really a wild vegetable, they can be found locally at most natural food stores, when in season. Taste wise, fiddleheads have been called a cross between asparagus and artichoke.
Asparagus is another springtime treasure worth getting to know. Asparagus spears shoot up from an underground crown about a foot deep in sandy soil. They may take from three to five years to appear from seed. However, once underway, this little perennial will send up spears for six to eight weeks and continue doing so for another fifteen years. Revered by royalty and commoners alike for thousands of years, asparagus, along with fiddleheads, morels and a few other spring delicacies herald an end to winter and a return to green veggies. Hallelujah!
Roasted Fiddleheads and Asparagus
1 lb. fiddlehead ferns
1 lb. asparagus
3 slices thick cut
2 cloves garlic,
smashed and minced
2 T shallot, diced fine
1/4 cup blanched
Salt and pepper, to taste
Begin preparing the fiddleheads by cleaning off any brown "paper" on the outside. Clean fiddleheads by soaking in cold water twice, with fresh water each time. Prepare asparagus by snapping off woody ends and cutting in half, if desired.
Boil salted water and blanch asparagus and fiddleheads separately, for two to three minutes. Remove from pot and immediately place in ice water to stop the cooking.
In a warm sauté pan, add diced bacon and cook over medium heat. Cook until bacon just begins to brown around the edges. Remove bacon and reserve rendered bacon fat. In a large bowl, toss together blanched vegetables, bacon, garlic, shallot, almonds, a squeeze of lemon, salt and pepper and about two tablespoons of reserved bacon fat. Place all in an oven-safe container and roast at 375 degrees for 10 to 15 minutes, or until almonds begin to color. Grate lemon peel onto everything immediately after removing from oven.