We all know farmers markets are a great place to shop for pasture-raised eggs, fresh lettuce and local cheeses, but they are also a great place to discover new vegetables like fiddlehead ferns.
Fiddlehead ferns are the rolled up new leaf from certain edible fern plants, often ostrich ferns. They are crisp, and their flavor is herbaceous — like a cross between asparagus and green beans (and they can be used in many of the same recipes). Nutritionally, fiddleheads have a good amount of vitamin C, niacin and potassium.
Fiddlehead ferns are hyper-seasonal, available for a few weeks in late May and early June. Come to the farmers market early to buy them. Like morel mushrooms and ramps, these spring treats can only be foraged in limited quantities and sell out quickly.
When shopping, look for fiddleheads with bright green color and tightly coiled tops. The stem should only be 1 or 2 inches long. If it is any longer, snap it off and compost, as the texture will probably be tough.
Buying fiddleheads from a knowledgeable forager at a farmers market is the safest way to enjoy this seasonal treat, as some varieties of ferns are toxic. Fiddleheads should be steamed or sautéed, since they are difficult for most people to digest raw.
Since fiddlehead ferns are wild and not bread for storage like many common vegetables, they have a short shelf life. It is best to eat fiddleheads as soon as possible after harvest to avoid browning and loss of their crisp texture.