Morels, ramps, and fiddleheads are all some of our favorite edible signs of spring. But their fleeting nature means we often don't have a lot of experience preparing them, and with fiddleheads that can be a big concern. Take this experience of one unwitting fiddlehead eater:
I served them sauteed al dente as part of our meal last night, including to our dinner guest, Dave, and we all woke up early this a.m. having to take turns in our two bathrooms.[jump]
We sent Dave off for his drive back to Milwaukee with 1) a bottle of water, 2) a banana, 3) a roll of TP. File under host FAIL.
A call to the Wedge and reviewing a CDC report indicates that fiddlehead ferns (also called ostrich ferns) contain a mild toxin that's neutralized by heat. Eating fiddleheads raw could leave you doubled over for days. Even Wedge employees, it turns out, have made the mistake of undercooking fiddleheads, and now prefer to either blanch or steam them before sauteeing them for a few minutes with butter and salt. (After a series of illnesses a while back, a Canadian health organization issued a warning that advised cooking fiddleheads by boiling them for 15 minutes or steaming them for 10 to 12 minutes before eating.)
The Wedge and other grocers likely won't be putting up any warning signage, but staffers say they always encourage patrons to make inquiries when buying a food they've never cooked before.