Spring has sprung once again in beautiful New England and that can only mean one thing. It's time to get outside, forage for local wild foods, and perhaps try a few new recipes! Three of our favorites are dandelion greens, asparagus and fiddleheads.
Fiddleheads have been part of traditional diets in Asia, Australia and New Zealand, as well as New England and Quebec for generations. Harvested in early spring in New England, young fiddleheads most often come from the Ostrich or Cinnamon variety of ferns and are available for only a short period of time in April and early May. It is best to cook and serve young fiddleheads within hours of being picked. When sauteed, fiddleheads have a wonderfully nutty flavor and a great crunch that pairs well with a variety of mushrooms and a good steak. Fiddleheads are rich in iron, zinc, and Vitamins A & C. If you want to taste fiddleheads for the first time, try Fiddlehead Stir Fry or Fiddlehead or Asparagus Salad.
Yet another wonderful spring vegetable indigenous to New England is asparagus - young shoots are rich in Iron and Vitamin B. Asparagus is a member of the lily family and has long been cultivated as a vegetable crop in many parts of the world. It is said the ancient Egyptians, Romans and Greeks were fond of this wonderful vegetable and would preserve it for year-round use. Asparagus comes in green, purple and white varieties - the color is determined by the amount of exposure to the sun. There is no limit to the number of ways asparagus can be prepared or the number of ingredients it can be paired with. One of our favorite methods of cooking asparagus is roasting the young shoots with sea salt and a dash of truffle oil. Baked Asparagus with Goat Cheese, Asparagus Stuffed Sole and Asparagus & Chicken Pasta are a few other tasty ways to serve fresh shoots.
Not only are dandelions highly nutritious, they have a long history of being used for medicinal purposes as well. The roots of the dandelion plant can be roasted and brewed as a coffee substitute, while dandelion flowers are wonderful when stir fried. Dandelion greens can be sauteed or used in salads and sandwiches. It is said that dandelions can aid in digestion as well as reduce inflammation. With high levels of Vitamin A and Vitamin C, dandelion greens are considered one of the most nutritionally valuable leafy greens one can eat. One of our favorite ways to serve dandelions is Tempura Dandelion Blossoms, courtesy of Chef Rich Larcom. These light and crispy little treats are a great crouton replacement in salads.