Sidebar: Find the Fiddleheads

Fiddleheads coincide with morel season: April or May, depending on the microclimate. All species of ferns produce fiddleheads, some more delicious and edible than others. Most people are familiar with the large green curls of ostrich fern, which are typically served lightly sautéed. These ferns are mild in flavor, like a combination of asparagus, cabbage and artichoke, and are locally scarce.

Bracken fern is abundant along hiking trails in the Pacific Northwest; look for bracken fern along the edges of forests, in light shade, where the soil is rich, sloped, damp, and well-drained. Up to 15 gallons, per person, per day, are acceptable to gather in national forests without a permit. Check www.dnr.wa.gov for specific land restrictions in your area.

Considered a delicacy in Korea and Japan, bracken fiddleheads must be blanched in boiling water, then dried in full sun for 24 hours, until they harden into black tendrils that look like the charred remnants of a forest fire. This process leaches the fiddlehead of its bitter compounds, which may be carcinogenic. Dried, these fiddleheads can be stored indefinitely.

Reconstituted and sautéed, gosari are an essential component of the Korean mixed-rice dish bibimbop. Gosari dishes are also used as an offering in ancestral worship ceremonies.

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