Backyard Fiddleheads [Moved from Ontario]
Has anyone picked fiddleheads from their own backyard? Forraging stories welcome too. I'm pretty sure I've identified our ferns as Ostrich ferns (emerging from a black stump in groups). Most improtantly, does anyone know if there are dire consequenced if I've got my identification wrong? A quick google search seems to suggest not (though of course warnings about handling/cooking safety, and the insight that all ferns may contain carcinogens-- guess I'll be drinking a big glass of red wine to make up for that).
If your ferns are, in fact, the proper variety they'll probably just be starting to emerge right now (in S. Ontario). The main clump is dark and dried-out looking, but then green spirals start to appear - these are the fiddleheads. Pick them when they're no more than 2 or 3-inches high and always leave a few in each clump so that the plant can survive. The best fiddleheads will be firm and fat - covered with loose brown scales that can be removed when you wash them.
My personal method for preparing fiddleheads is to boil them in one or two changes of rapidly boiling water for just a minute - and then drain. The water will have turned dark brown, almost black. After that, you can saute them in butter with garlic or lemon or whatever you like. Very delicious. I find the parboiling step removes any bitterness (which they can have) while still leaving them crisp and tender.
Fiddleheads (gosari in Korean) are used in a lot of Korean recipes. In Washington, and probably anywhere else that they grow and Koreans live near, fiddlehead hunting is a family or group outing. New locations are jealously guarded secrets and there is a lot of competition. The best location are those where coral mushrooms also grow. Korean women will pack up their kimbop, portable propane stoves, shin ramyen, insect repellent, and large plastic or burlap sacks and head to the hills at the earliest hint of sprouting.
We have picked fiddleheads in the woods near Tobermory. They were just like the fancy (expensive) grocery store ones - probably better. They had a lot of sand on them and needed to be washed thoroughly. We all lived through it and never even considered they could be harmful. Morels, on the other hand, are also something we picked and had an identification book so we didn't eat a poisonous "false" morel. This is an annual trek with a few brews later to reward us for the woods thing.