Spring! The time of year when I hunch over in my garden, straddling struggling seedlings, foraging and nipping off fiddleheads in early mornings. Readers with good memories may recall my article, ‘Bites: The Fiddlehead’, that appeared in this fine magazine in June 2012. Others can check out Progressive Pulse archives.
A refresher: Fiddleheads are un-unfurled Ostrich Fern (Matteuccia struthiopteris) fronds or crosiers (say that five times fast!). Curled up tight, they resemble the spiral end of a violin, ergo the name. Fiddleheads emerge from over-wintered stubs of the fern in Eastern North America for a short time in the spring. Energetic fans forage in damp, musty woods. City slickers, in their gardens or at their gourmet greengrocer’s. Why? It’s fun to seek them, they are delicious with a wild, crunchy, earthy flavour, bright, fresh green colour and are said to be nutrient-dense. We can all use antioxidants and possible cancer-retardant properties, right?
If store-bought, chances are fiddleheads are safe (repeat, Ostrich Ferns only) and are washed. When self-foraged, they should snap off easily and may have brown filmy bits sticking to them. Rub them together and wash well to remove this residue. Fiddleheads should be cooked before consuming as they can be toxic raw. As the availability window is brief, collect as many as you can. Blanch fiddleheads in some boiling water for a few minutes, then plunge or rinse in cold water. Overcooking will cause crosiers to unfurl, undesired and unattractive! Drain precious cargo on paper towels; you will not believe how much water these soak up! I use right away or freeze fistfuls for later use. They are delicious sautéed in butter or olive oil as a side dish or as a cameo veg in countless recipes – pasta, quiche, pilaf and so on.
A pal encouraged me to try them on pizza. I did, it turned out great, I share my effort with you below. Pinch of salt here, just know, I am no professional cook, recipe creator, writer or photographer – just a lover of good food, prose and snaps. I like shortcuts, use what I have on hand and try to use healthy ingredients. However, this is pizza and does call for cheese!
Fiddlehead and Shrimp White Pizza
10-12 inch pizza shell – I used store-bought whole wheat
Bottled white pasta sauce – I used roasted garlic alfredo
Grated havarti cheese – about ¾ cup
Grated jack cheese – about ¾ cup
Grated parmesan cheese – I used low fat
Handful clean blanched fiddleheads
Handful cleaned, precooked shrimp, tails off – use small or medium
Thinly sliced red onion
Roughly julienned sweet red pepper
Rinsed, well drained, canned sliced mushrooms
Preheat oven to 425° F or according to instructions with your pizza dough. I use a pizza tin for ease of handling and to contain the whole possible mess. I layered ingredients in the following order – sauce, havarti, fiddleheads, red pepper, red onion, jack, shrimp, mushrooms, parmesan, basil. Bake the pizza in the centre of your oven for 10-11 minutes, keeping an eye on it.
Then finish by broiling for 2-3 minutes and, ecco! Oh si, my Italian is severely limited.
You may choose different ingredients than I did and perhaps layer differently. You may opt for chicken, vegetarian or a healthier version. No matter, I think you’ll agree that fiddleheads make this pizza look and taste unique. In fact, husband said: ‘next time, more fiddleheads’.
Gotta love this short-lived spring treat!
For more information on Fiddleheads, check out Meera’s previous article: