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Foods foraged from the forest

Furled fronds of ostrich ferns or fiddleheads emerging from the forest floor are a sure sign spring has arrived. Morel mushrooms are not far behind. These foraged delicacies have a short season beginning as early as April.

Fiddleheads are rich in vitamins A and C and potassium. Vitamin A is a natural antioxidant and important for skin and mucus membrane maintenance.

Potassium helps reduce blood pressure and heart rate and boosts muscular and nervous systems. Iron, manganese, copper and B vitamins are also supplied in lesser amounts.

Raw fiddleheads are toxic and must be cooked before eaten. Steam or boil for five to 10 minutes or until tender, then discard the boiling water. Toss in butter and crushed sea salt for a simple and nutritious side dish.

Morels are a good source of vitamin D, potassium and iron and spring up in areas that have been ravaged by forest fires. This year is expected to be the largest harvest ever after last year’s bad fire season in the northwest regions from northern California to the Northwest Territories.

Fiddlehead and Saffron Soup

  • 6 oz. fiddleheads 170 g
  • 4 c. chicken stock 1 L
  • 1/2 tsp. saffron, crushed 2 mL
  • 2 egg yolks
  • lemon juice, to taste
  • 1/4 c. whole cream 60 mL
  • salt and pepper

Trim fresh fiddleheads and wash in a sink of cold water up to four times. Drain.

Cook in a pot of boiling salted water until tender, about 10 minutes. Drain and immediately plunge into ice water to save the bright green colour and stop the cooking. Drain and set aside. Heat chicken stock with saffron to boiling and gently simmer for five minutes until the saffron infuses the broth. Turn off the heat. Beat together yolks and lemon juice.
Temper yolks by slowly whisking in a ladleful or two of hot stock. Then whisk egg mixture back into stock. Stir in cream. Taste and adjust the seasonings. Add fiddleheads and gently reheat, without boiling. If it boils, it may curdle. Serves four. Source: adapted from Laura Calder.

Morel Mushroom Cream Sauce

Fresh or dried morels work equally well in this sauce. Reconstitute dried mushrooms by soaking in boiling water for 30 minutes. Drain and squeeze out excess water. Wrap in moist cloth or paper towel if not using immediately.
Reserve soaking liquid for another use. This sauce is delicious with meat, pasta or eggs.

  • 1/4 c. shallots, minced 60 mL
  • 1 tbsp. butter 15 mL
  • sea salt, to taste
  • 1 c. fresh morels 250 mL or 1/2 oz. reconstituted dried morels
  • 1/4 c. dry white wine 60 mL
  • 3/4 c. whole cream 200 mL
  • juice of half a lemon
  • freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Saute shallots in butter and salt until clear but not browned. Add wine and reduce by gently simmering until about one-third remains.
Add remaining ingredients except cream and continue to gently simmer for five minutes. Stir in cream and remove from heat.
If necessary, add more salt, pepper or lemon juice. Serve.

Roasted Morels with Shallots

Use these as a topping for mashed potatoes, steak, eggs or to top a salad.

  • 2 tbsp. olive oil 30 mL
  • 1/2 lb. fresh morels 250 g
  • 3 shallots, peeled and cut into wedges
  • sea salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 400 F (200 C). Lightly grease a roasting pan with olive oil. Wipe morels with damp cloth to remove grit and slice off most of the stem. Cut mushrooms in half lengthwise, then toss mushrooms and shallots in olive oil to lightly coat. Arrange mushrooms cut sides down in pan. Arrange shallots around mushrooms.Roast for 10 to 15 minutes, until mushrooms are softened. Serve immediately.

Pickled Fiddleheads

I found that fiddleheads were crisper if cooked in a water and vinegar mixture rather than only water. Discard the cooking liquid because the toxins from the fiddleheads will cause stomach upset. Then continue with the recipe using new water and vinegar to fill the jars.

  • 1 lb. fiddleheads, cleaned 500 g
  • 1 lemon
  • 3 c. water 750 mL
  • 3 c. white wine vinegar 750 mL
  • 1/2 c. sugar 125 mL
  • 1/4 c. kosher or pickling salt 60 mL
  • 3 whole black peppercorns
  • 1/2 tsp. coriander seeds 2 mL
  • 1 whole allspice
  • 1/2 lb. shallots, sliced (1/8 inch thick) 250 g
  • 8 jars with lids and screw caps 250 mL

Cook fiddleheads by boiling for five minutes, drain and chill.
Make strips of lemon zest with a peeler, then juice lemons.
On the bottom of each jar, place allspice, peppercorns, coriander, a one-inch (2.5 cm) piece of lemon rind and thinly sliced shallots. Fill jar with cooked fiddleheads.
Bring to boil water, vinegar, lemon juice, sugar and salt. Pour over fiddleheads so that liquid covers fiddleheads and reaches to within 1/4 inch (6 mm) of rim.
Wipe rims and place lids and screw caps on jars. Finger tighten. Place in a water bath canner that has boiling water to cover jars by two inches (5 cm).
Lower heat to maintain boil and process for 15 minutes. Remove from water bath and cool, upright on countertop for 24 hours.
Check seals and store in cool room up to a year.

Fiddlehead Pesto Recipe

Stuff pork tenderloin with this pesto. Mix with fresh ricotta for a vegetable dip or filling to stuff zucchini or peppers or top a goat cheese crostini with a dollop.

  • 3 c. boiling water 750 mL
  • pinch of salt
  • 8 oz. frozen or fresh fiddleheads 250 g
  • 1/3 c. olive oil, add more if needed 75 mL
  • 3 tbsp. pine nuts or walnuts 45 mL
  • 3 garlic cloves, finely minced
  • 1/4 c. grated parmesan cheese 60 mL

Cook fiddleheads in salted boiling water for eight minutes, drain well. Add fiddleheads, nuts and garlic to the jar of a blender or food processor. Slowly add the olive oil while motor is running and blend well. Add about one-third of the parmesan cheese and mix. Add balance of cheese, stopping to scrape down sides of container.
Process until fiddlehead pesto forms a smooth paste consistency. Add more oil, if necessary. Source: Adapted from NorCliff Farms Inc.

Sarah Galvin is a home economist, teacher and farmers market vendor at Swift Current, Sask., and a member of Team Resources. She writes a blog at Contact:

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