Fiddleheads Sprout Up on NJ Menus

Here's eight restaurants around the state where you can find the quirky, fleeting spring vegetable.

Fiddleheads. Photo courtesy of Glenn Fleishman via Flickr Creative Commons

Yes, fiddleheads look like they came right out of a Dr. Seuss cookbook, but the furled fronds are actually a delicious, nutritious, and—make room, ramps—increasingly popular spring seasonal ingredient. They can be cooked in a variety of ways (but should never be consumed raw), and they’re full of good stuff like vitamins A and C, beta carotene, potassium, even Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids.

More importantly, they’re tasty—described as somewhere in the intersection of grassy, asparagus, nutty, and green. Since fiddleheads are actually the earliest growth of the ostrich fern, their season is very brief—early to mid-spring. Thanks to that cameo appearance and their unique flavor and look, fiddleheads are an easy chef favorite, popping up on seasonal menus around the state as quickly, and briefly, as the little ferns pop up on the forest floor.

Here’s a small round-up of New Jersey restaurants serving fiddleheads right now. (And don’t forget to ask your favorite local spot—worst case scenario they don’t have any, and you’ve scored serious culinary cred with the chef.)

Sauteed fiddleheads. Photo courtesy of Park Place Café & Restaurant

—The menu at Park Place Café & Restaurant in Merchantville is often busting with seasonal (even foraged) ingredients, so we weren’t surprised to find they celebrated fiddlehead season with a simple, show-stealing roasted side dish.

Agricola in Princeton is upping the Omega-3 quotient for its “craft raised” Vancouver Island salmon dish—their Skuna Bay Salmon comes with Curried Cauliflower “Rice,” Fiddlehead Ferns, Almond and Brown Butter sauce.

—Fiddleheads find another fish pairing on the current menu at Brick Farm Tavern in Hopewell, where they’re paired with Point Pleasant Fluke with Rye Berry, Fiddlehead, Cauliflower, Capers, Garlic-Herb Oil, and Beurre Noisette.

—Easter’s come and gone but they were doing Charred Fiddlehead & Mixed Greens Salad at 12 Farms in Highstown. (They are currently serving our other seasonal favorite, ramps, in this case grilled with black trumpet mushrooms, goat cheese, and fried leeks.)

Blue Morel is also doing a fiddlehead-fish pairing, but they’re keeping it raw. Fiddleheads show up on their dinner menu as an accompaniment to sushi grade tuna alongside leeks, English peas, mussel mousseline, and Mangalitsa (pork) lardo.

Pizza with fiddleheads, stinging nettles and scallions. Photo courtesy of Arturo’s Osteria & Pizzeria

—For carnivores out there, Porch & Proper in Collingswood goes straight for big game meat, playing to the fiddlehead’s heartier flavor characteristics with their Roasted Elk Chop with Wild Mushroom Ragu, Fingerling Potato and Fiddlehead Hash, and [ahem] Ramp Oil.

—For its third annual “Sansai Dinner” on May 5 (showcasing the Japanese concept of “sansai,” or wild foraged vegetables), Elements in Princeton will be cooking with all the early spring harbingers (fiddleheads stand out in the bunch).

*Vegetarians, and pizza lovers, rejoice. Arturo’s Osteria & Pizzeria in Maplewood is “Celebrating spring with [fiddlehead] ferns, stinging nettles, scallions, and cheddar” (pizza purists may pause at that last part, but based on the photo we’re guessing it’s all pretty divine).

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