If you live in the Seattle area, next time you're at a farmers market look for the Foraged and Found Edibles booth and pick up a copy of Christina Choi's Wild Foods Recipe Calendar, with illustrations by Emily Counts. This month-by-month catalog of the Pacific Northwest's wild cornucopia is a treasure trove of recipes and information. Oh, and take a gander at Christina's new blog too, Nettletown.
I tried the Pickled Fiddleheads recipe first.
1 lb fiddleheads, cleaned
1 1/2 cups water
1 1/2 cups wine vinegar
1/3 cup sugar
2 tbsp kosher salt
8-inch piece wild ginger (optional)
1 tsp whole black pepper
1 tsp coriander seeds
1 tsp whole allspice
1/2 lb shallots, sliced 1/8 inch thick
4 pint jars with lids and screwcaps, sterilized
1. Remove strips of lemon zest with a peeler, then juice lemons.
2. Pack fiddleheads tightly into canning jars, layered with shallots and lemon zest.
3. Bring to boil water, vinegar, lemon juice, sugar, salt, spices, and optional ginger.
4. Pour over fiddleheads so that liquid reaches to within a 1/4 inch of rim, then secure lids and process in hot water bath for 10 minutes.
The biggest challenge of fiddleheads isn't finding and picking them—that's relatively easy once you have an understanding of their habitat (moist woodlands, stream banks, swampy areas). No, the hardest part is cleaning the curly little buggers. (Before and after photos above.) Fiddleheads emerge out of an underground root system in tight, sheathed coils. The choicest fiddleheads are those closest to emergence, which also means those dressed in the shaggiest coats.
Here's a cleaning tip: Use two large bowls filled with water. Soak your fiddleheads in one and use the other as a rinsing dish. The chaff will come off easily enough with a little rubbing. When chaff begins to accumulate in your rinsing bowl, strain it out. This tedious sink-side work will be paid off handsomely with a pickled batch of springtime.