Fiddlin' with Fiddleheads!

Jul 16, 2015

I hadn’t hit a farmers market in weeks, and all the symptoms of withdrawal were present - a fridge full of limp vegetables, pasty skin, and a painful lack of recipe ideas. Last time I checked, the market was as gloomy as April’s grey skies - crowded still, but most vendors were serving pastries, coffee, and the odd winter vegetable. This past Saturday, I went to scour for asparagus at Toronto’s Green Barn Farmers’ Market. Oh, how the market had transformed! So much green, sprouting from every table, from baskets on the floor and in the aisles; more green than downtown Toronto on St. Patty’s Day. Asparagus I found, yes, but also wild garlic, leeks, lettuce - I could hardly contain my excitement over this bounty, when all of a sudden, something caught my eye. It was strangely familiar yet foreign, a spiral-shaped green object, peeking its head out of a basket on a farmer’s table. I’ve never tasted one, but I’ve seen enough cooking shows to know that these were legendary fiddleheads! A hybrid-like vegetable of broccoli and asparagus, these fern babies are a delicacy; some people love them, others can’t bare the earthy flavours they carry. If you haven’t gotten them yet, you better move fast; their growing season is only two weeks long!

“What on earth do you do with these creatures?” I asked the vendor. A good question, he exclaimed, and continued on about the glory of fiddleheads with butter. Before he could finish, I already had two neighbouring shoppers piping in. “Stirfy! They’re great in stirfry!” and “What about in pasta??” Now all this got me thinking - fiddleheads seem like a pretty versatile green, a veggie that you can pop into just about anything you like - pasta, pizza, stirfry, etc. They’re amazingly nutritious too, according to the CBC . Agriculture Canada recently released a study which explains that fiddleheads are “better than blueberries, the gold standard for antioxidants” and oddly (for plants) contain high levels of omega-3 fatty acids, usually found only in fish. It was a good first taste for me - I’m a huge fan of broccoli and so I enjoyed these curled up greens. If you’re hungry, short on time, enjoy garlic-y, buttery, goodness, then try this simple fiddlehead omelet yourself!

Fiddlehead Omelet
3 eggs
¼ cup aged white cheddar, grated
½ cup fiddleheads, whole
1 small red onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, chopped
4 tbsp. butter
4 fresh basil leaves, chopped

Salt and pepper to taste

  1. Saute garlic and onions in butter.
  2. After thoroughly washing your fiddleheads, add them in whole to the garlic and onions. Add a bit more butter to help them cook, and cover the pan. Cook until fiddleheads softened, approximately 10 minutes.
  3. In a glass, beat eggs, salt, pepper, and grated cheese.
  4. Here comes the omelet-making part:
    If you’re anything like me, you don’t mind your omelets looking like a jumbled mess, more like scrambled eggs full of veggies than like anything you’d see in a restaurant. At this stage, when my fiddleheads are at a desired softness, I would remove the lid, pour in my egg mixture, and mix the egg with the veggies until the eggs are fully cooked
    If you want to get all fancy with this egg business, heat a separate pan with oil or butter, and pour the egg mixture only, so that it covers the entire bottom of the pan. As it begins to fully cook, the egg will become less shiny. Add your ingredients to one half of the flat egg, and fold the other half of the egg pancake to cover up your fiddleheads. Allow to cook a couple more minutes to ensure the egg is fully cooked.
  5. Remove from heat, serve, and enjoy.

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