Friday, May 31, 2013

Fiddleheads and Rhubarb

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...


Rhubarb!!

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
Mmmmmm....
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
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!

You're welcome.

23 comments:

  1. Rhubarb pie was my grandfather's favorite food, and he hailed from New Jersey. I've yet to try it, living in the south and all. I think I saw some frozen at Sam's though... weird!

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    1. Wow, I don't think I've ever seen frozen rhubarb before in the stores! It does make a wonderful pie, though!

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  2. I would agree that eating fiddleheads is a Northeastern practice. I'd never heard of that until a friend of mine who lived in Vermont told me it was a seasonal menu item in restaurants there. I love rhubarb! My mother would cook it with strawberries and we would eat it warm over vanilla icecream, yum! I will definitely be trying your recipe for the pie,thank you!

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    1. Mmm, that sounds good, too! I'll bet that combination would be awesome with some shortcake added, too. That's awesome that you can get fiddleheads in restaurants up north. I guess it's like how you have collared greens down south!

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  3. I have a backyard full of Fiddlehead Ostrich Ferns, and I have yet to consume them! For years, I've thought about trying it, and of course it's too late this season because they're totally unfurled. But I'll make a mental note to go for it next year! Now, Rhubarb ... I find it fascinating that it was hard to find in North Carolina! It's a staple of the Wisconsin diet, from late May through June. :) I love Strawberry/Rhubarb pie, and I have a wonderful, easy recipe for Rhubarb Torte. Enjoy all the tasty produce!

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    1. Ooo, that sounds good, too! My mom was from upstate New York, so strawberry-rhubarb pie was a must. When we lived up in Alaska we had a giant rhubarb plant. I've seen a cultivar sold lately in some garden stores down south (sold as roots in a bag), but I've never heard of anyone who successfully grew it there.

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  4. I just planted more ostrich ferns so i could harvest them eventually....and rhubarb...well I have 3 plants that linger but don't produce much...they need fertilizer and then I might get a good crop...raised on rhubarb and love rhubarb in pie or just cooked with a bit of sugar.

    Glad you are liking the produce in New England!

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    1. Definitely! My mom was from upstate New York, and I still have family there, so we eat some things I haven't seen down south. Crabapple jelly is another I haven't really seen down south, but I love!

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  5. in the same way, we COULD, eat our asparagus fern - but I've never tried it.

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    1. My mother-in-law talks about how she grows asparagus fern and eats it, but I have yet to have had any from her garden (and now she's moved, so she's starting fresh with her garden, too!)

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  6. I actually prefer regular rhubarb pie to strawberry rhubarb, but I would never turn down either! As to fiddleheads - you must admit that anything sauteed in garlic and butter will taste good. Well, almost anything.

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    1. You know, I don't think I've ever had just plain rhubarb pie. I'll definitely have to try that at some point! And yes, that is true - practically anything is good sauteed in garlic and butter!

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  7. Edible Ferns, well, well, I have heard it all now. Must have had something to do with the early settlers.

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    1. According to what I've read, Native Americans ate it. And apparently it's quite common in different Asian cuisines! I never knew it was so popular before!

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  8. Sadly, rhubarb is not a staple in North Carolina supermarkets. Whole Food and other chi-chi stores are carrying it now, but it's usually MIA. Not a Southern thing at all. But the peaches make up for it.

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    1. That is true - the most amazing peaches I have ever had were from North Carolina! I'm not totally sure it makes up for the lack of rhubarb, though... I do love my rhubarb! Oh, that would be a tough choice to make..

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  9. I have always grown both strawberries and rhubarb, but have never cooked them together! So thank you for the recipe, I'm definitely trying it. I have heard of eating fern fiddleheads, but have never seen them in the shops here.

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    1. Strawberries and rhubarb are made for each other! You'll definitely have to try them in something together!

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  10. Both of these items bring back memories, Indie! My aunt introduced us to fiddleheads when we were kids. They looked very exotic but had a pleasant, "green" flavour. I tried making them myself just a few weeks ago and yum yum yum! My taste buds have matured. Did what you did: just sauteed them in butter and added a bit of lemon juice.
    Rhubarb was and is also a great favourite. My mother's strawberry-rhubarb jam was absolutely fabulous!

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    1. Jam sounds fabulous! That would be fun to try to make! There's so many good strawberry-rhubarb recipes. I've even found a strawberry-rhubarb yogurt at the store that is awesome and I get quite a bit. It tides me over between pie season!

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  11. I have never tasted rhubarb or fiddleheads! Not likely to find the rhubarb here, but I will be watching in the grocery store. I do have some lady ferns, so maybe i will try some next spring.

    Also, thanks for your comment on my post about Whitewater redbud. You may be interested to know that I first learned about this plant on your own blog! Thanks for the inspiration!

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    1. I'm delighted to have provided the inspiration for your new redbud! It's such a beautiful tree. I'm glad you are enjoying it!

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  12. I so miss Rhubarb pie. I had it when up north in Seattle, Washington when I was a camp counselor. We really can't get it down here in Houston. I have never been brave enough to eat fern fiddleheads. Bravo!
    David/:0)

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