Asparagus and Fiddleheads

Along with robins in the yard and daylight past 6 pm, another signal of spring are asparagus and fiddleheads. Eating vegetables in season is such a pleasure, the flavor and nutrients are at peak. Simple preparations with a bit of olive oil and/or vinegar, enhances the natural flavors creating wonderful side dishes or complete meals. Asparagus and fiddleheads are nutrient dense, flavorful vegetables that are especially vibrant in spring. Crunchy with a grassy flavor these vegetables are a real celebration of the season.

Asparagus can be shaved raw into salad, lightly steamed, or sauteed. It is not pleasurable to eat overcooked asparagus, so watch it carefully. In Elise Richter’s book Always in Season, she advises cooking asparagus by boiling water and then pouring it over the asparagus, let the asparagus lie in the hot liquid for 4-10 minutes, testing them frequently to attain the desired tenderness.

Asparagus is a nutrient dense vegetable. Nutrient dense means that you get a lot of good vitamins and minerals with very few calories. Asparagus is especially high in folate, Vitamins A, C, E, and K as well as Calcium and Manganese. Asparagus is a natural diuretic aiding in a nice gentle spring detox. Depending on where you live, fresh local asparagus may not be available until June, but no worries, asparagus is conventionally farmed using the least amount of pesticides compared to other vegetables conventionally grown. Even though your asparagus may have made a long trek to your local grocery, it is still a worthy vegetable. If you are able to hold out and buy asparagus local, you may be able to find Purple Passion, Mary Washington, or Jersey Supreme varieties at your local farmer’s market. The sweetness and flavor of these varieties are certainly worth the wait.

Asparagus with Pistachio and Lemon
Serves 4 * Side Dish
1 Tbsp. Fiore Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 clove garlic, minced
¼ lb. chopped pistachios, unsalted
1 lb. asparagus
1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
Black pepper to taste
Maine Sea salt to taste
Toast pistachios in a pan over medium heat, just to brown. Take a piece of aluminum foil about 16 inches, place clean and trimmed asparagus, garlic and olive oil in the middle. Fold the foil to make a sealed pouch. Place on a medium heat grill or in a 350° oven for 10-15 minutes, watch closely because asparagus becomes slimy when overcooked. Toss the asparagus with pistachios, lemon juice, salt and pepper to serve.

Fiddleheads are a traditional New England vegetable and may be difficult to find outside of this region. If you are able to get a hold of some they sure are worth the effort. Like asparagus, they have a crunchy-grassy flavor and texture and are nutrient dense. Fiddleheads are harvested in the spring. They are immature ostrich fern fronds. Many people in New England have their favorite fiddlehead hunting grounds that they like to keep secret. Fiddleheads are the first produce of the season that can be found at road side stands, being sold out of the back of a car in a parking lot and local food co-ops, making them a true harbinger of spring and a real New England delicacy.

Fiddleheads are high in fiber, Vitamins A&C, potassium and omega-3 fatty acids. Fiddleheads are great for people who have high blood pressure because of their low sodium, high potassium content.

Fiddleheads need to be washed and cleaned and then steamed for at least 10 minutes before adding them to dishes. Once cleaned and steamed, fiddleheads can be added to pasta, rice, or vegetable sautees. Fiddleheads can be fermented, frozen or canned for preservation and use throughout the year.

Fiddleheads and Roasted Garlic
Serves 4 * Side Dish
1 head garlic, peeled
¼ cup olive oil
2 tsp. Lemon Balsamic vinegar
¼ cup sliced almonds
1 lb. fiddleheads, cleaned and trimmed
Place garlic and olive oil in a 9X13 ceramic or glass dish, put in 350° oven. Cover fiddleheads with water in a pot, bring to a boil, cook for 10 minutes. Drain the fiddleheads. Once the garlic is browned, add the fiddleheads and almonds to the garlic and put back in the oven for 5-7 minutes or until garlic is well roasted.