Every spring, for only a few weeks, young fern plants in the Great Lakes region begin unfurl their little fronds. These infant ferns are known as fiddleheads, and they are a locavore’s dream. If you happen upon some, as I did last Tuesday at Toronto’s Trinity Bellwoods farmer’s market, seize the opportunity to take a bunch home. At this point in the season, you may not get a second chance.

Fiddlehead porn courtesy of flickr.com/teenytinyturkey

Temperamental little baby that the fiddlehead is, it requires an extra dose of TLC. Each fern will have to be individually scrubbed of any dirt or debris tangled in its trademark whorl, and then you’ll have to trim off the ends of the stalks. Then, cook the bejeezus out of them: 12-15 minutes to steam, or 8-10 to boil. If you get frustrated by this time investment (as I am wont to do) just remember: the fiddlehead comes but once a year. Patience is of the essence.

From here, you can treat the fern as you like. Last spring, I bathed them in garlic and butter and tossed them with some quinoa and nuts. This time around, I let the bf do the ferning. He opted to grind them into a pesto, using Mark Bittman’s asparagus pesto recipe as inspiration. The recipe follows Bittman’s almost to the letter, except that walnuts were used in place of pine nuts and the asparagus was replaced with boiled fiddleheads, and I made him throw in a cup of cooked white beans for a little added nutritional zing. The pesto could go with anything–fish, chicken, you name it–but we decided to pair it with pasta (brown rice animal shapes, if you must know). With a side salad, it was pretty darn gourmet.

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