Ferns, you say? Are you crazy? Trust me—young baby ostrich ferns, or “fiddleheads,” are a much-anticipated delicacy each spring. Wait a minute! Aren’t ferns toxic? Yes, and no. Yes, if the wrong variety of fern is eaten; no, if it’s ostrich ferns that are harvested, then washed thoroughly and cooked for the appropriate time.
Every spring I start to crave fiddleheads, and even though I cringe at how expensive they are in the grocery stores here on the Island, I still buy enough of them for a special meal each year. Fiddleheads are a local delicacy in the Maritime Provinces. In fact, Tide Head, New Brunswick, boasts that it is the “Fiddlehead Capital of the World!” What I didn’t know until very recently (as in today), is that fiddleheads can also be found here in British Columbia; in fact, they can be found in various places all over North America. They’re most prolific though, in the Maritimes, Quebec, Ontario and New England.
I’m looking forward to the prospect of foraging for fiddleheads locally, after reading about some Vancouver chefs who have done so. Next year, I’m going to go on the hunt! Why am I so excited about fiddleheads? That’s easy—they taste great, with real earthy goodness. (If you like the taste of asparagus, then you’d most likely enjoy eating fiddleheads.) They’re also rich in antioxidants and Vitamin C.
My boys had their first fiddlehead-picking experience when they were quite young, during a family vacation in New Brunswick. We all headed into the woods with our buckets in hand, looking for streams or lakes where the fiddleheads grow along the banks. It was a fun day, even though the black flies almost devoured my little guys. I don’t think they have ever had so many bug bites at one time as they did that day. Did I mention that there are very few mosquitos or black flies on Vancouver Island compared to other areas in Canada? Just another great reason to live here! When I first discovered that fact, I think I jumped for joy.
For those of you who can find fresh fiddleheads in your local grocery store or market, this recipe for Fiddlehead Mushroom Soup is delicious and unique, and I’m quite sure that you’ll enjoy it as much as my family and I do.
The flavours of the fiddleheads and the mushrooms balance each other beautifully. It’s also an easy recipe to prepare. If you can’t find fresh fiddleheads, frozen ones can be substituted, but you may have difficulty in finding them, too. How I wish I had a supply of frozen fiddleheads so that I could make this soup all year!
There are a few rules to remember when making this recipe, and they are rather important! The fiddleheads must be washed and scrubbed properly, so that the brown husks covering them are completely removed. Then they must be steamed for about 10 to 12 minutes, or boiled for 15 minutes until tender, before adding them to the soup. The cooking water must be discarded. Do not add any of it to the soup base.
Isn’t the colour of this soup amazing? Have you ever eaten fiddleheads? I would love to hear your comments about them!
- 8 green onions
- 3 cups chicken stock
- 2½-3 cups pre- cooked fiddleheads * (if frozen and pre-cooked do not thaw)
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1 lb. fresh mushrooms sliced (I used cremini)
- 2 tablespoons flour
- salt, pepper
- * Note: fiddleheads must be cleaned (brown husks removed) and steamed for 10-12 minutes or boiled 15 minutes . The water will turn brown and must be discarded.
- Cut green onions in short pieces and place medium size saucepan with ½ cup of the chicken stock. Cover and boil for a few minutes until tender. Pour into a blender and mix until smooth.
- Return green onion mixture to saucepan and add remaining stock.
- Bring to boil then add fiddleheads. Reduce heat, cover and turn stove to simmer.
- Melt butter in skillet and add sliced mushrooms. Sauté for approximately 2 minutes to soften.
- Sprinkle in the flour and blend well.
- Remove from heat. Stir about 1 cup of stock into mushroom mixture to blend. Pour mushrooms back into saucepan.
- Bring to a boil then immediately reduce heat. Simmer for 3 minutes uncovered.
- Add salt and pepper to taste.
- Serves 4-6.