Pop quiz: which of these plants in my shade garden is edible?
Many of you probably know that Foxglove is highly poisonous, which leaves the correct answer: the Ostrich fern!
I'd heard before that young curled fern fronds, or fiddleheads, as they're known as, were edible; however, I've never seen them sold in grocery stores before I moved up north to the Boston area. Either I have fancier grocery stores nearby now, or this is a more Northern delicacy.
|fiddleheads at the grocery store!|
Of course, I had to try them, being previously uncertain about picking them out of my garden. Sautéed with garlic and butter, they were quite good, tasting rather like asparagus to me. Mr. Red House maligned them as tasting 'green', but, well, this is the man that refers to salad as 'rabbit food'.
Here I was with a garden of gourmet wild vegetables, and I didn't even know it! Next time I'm at the store and see some fiddleheads, I think I have to try the University of Maine's recipe for Shrimp and Fiddlehead Medley (with linguini!) Mmmmm.... To pick fiddleheads from your own garden, harvest them in spring when they are just a few inches high and still tightly curled.
|Cinnamon fern fiddleheads|
Ostrich fern is the most common source of edible fiddleheads in the New England area. Other edible fiddleheads include those of Lady ferns, Cinnamon ferns, and Bracken ferns - though debatably so, as Bracken ferns contain a carcinogenic compound that must be broken down by heat. In fact, it is advised that all fiddleheads be thoroughly cooked, as if not some can be mildly toxic.
Ah, but fiddleheads were not my only find at the supermarket here in Boston. Right nearby in the produce section was...
For you Northerners, I might have to explain how exciting this is. In North Carolina, it was an annual ritual at the height of strawberry season - the finding of the rhubarb. I would trek to every grocery store nearby looking for one that had rhubarb. Oftentimes it would be on backorder at the upscale grocery stores - it was seriously hard to get!
|it even looks somewhat fresh!|
Being relatively unknown in the South (this is a plant that needs cold!), if I did manage to find rhubarb, I would inevitably end up in a discussion with the cashier as to what it is and how to use it. There are many different recipes that involve rhubarb, but I, dear reader, desperately needed it every year for Strawberry-Rhubarb Pie.
|Our favorite pie of all time - Strawberry-Rhubarb|
Once when describing the deliciousness of a Strawberry-Rhubarb Pie to a particularly dubious cashier, I told him that it was even better than Sweet Potato Pie. His eyes grew wide, like I had just said a particularly terrible curse word. (In truth, I was on shaky ground, since Sweet Potato Pie is my second favorite pie of all time - and I've only had store-made.)
Now that I live further north, I'm very excited to grow my own rhubarb plant
- right next to my strawberry plants, of course!
Recipe for Indie's Strawberry-Rhubarb Pie
1 recipe pastry for Double-crust pie
3 stalks fresh Rhubarb, sliced
Strawberries, enough so that when chopped, the rhubarb and strawberries should add up to 5 cups of fruit
1/3 cup flour
2/3 to 3/4 cup sugar
1 secret ingredient - because you should always have one so that when someone particularly loves your pie, you can say the secret ingredient made all the difference!
(p.s. My secret ingredient is usually lemon or orange zest)
In a large bowl, combine the flour and sugar. Gently mix in everything else. Pour into a pastry-lined pie plate. Place top pastry on filling, crimp edges, and cut slits on top. Cover edges of pie with foil. Bake in 375 degree F oven for 25 minutes. Remove foil and bake for 25 minutes more or until the top is golden and the filling is bubbling. Cool on a wire rack. Serve warm with vanilla ice cream or eat cold with a glass of milk!