If there's any time to prioritize hitting up the farmers market, it's during Spring. Blink and you might miss some of the season's most prized — and fleeting — produce, like fiddleheads, the unfurled sprouts of the plant known as the ostrich fern. Harvesting season for these wild greens, which are native to the northeastern United States, only lasts a few short weeks in May, so don't miss out! A few important things to know about cooking with them, when you read more.

When cooked, these greens possess the same bright color, crisp bite, and tender interior as asparagus, and have a grassy flavor that works well in sautés and pastas. When shopping for shoots, look for tight coils with short stems. Before using, wash the ferns, removing any browned or damaged leaves or chaff with a good shake through running water. Store clean fiddleheads in the fridge; they'll keep for anywhere from a week to 10 days.

Don't serve these raw, as they naturally contain substances that have been known to cause gastric disruption. Instead, blanch them in salted boiling water for two to three minutes and drain them of their dark water before further cooking them. Here, a few ways to take advantage of fiddlehead ferns:

  • After blanching, sauté with butter and aromatics for a simple preparation.
  • Serve alongside eggs and hollandaise for a new twist on eggs florentine.
  • Toss with red pepper flakes and truffle oil in an angel hair pasta.
  • When Spring's in full swing, make a fiddlehead and morel risotto.
  • Freeze them in ziplock bags, or transform them into pickled ferns to enjoy in Winter.

Have you ever eaten fiddlehead ferns? How were they prepared?

Source: Flickr User GlennFleishman