Fiddlehead fern is the young furled tip of the Ostrich fern (or it could be some other fern species) harvested in North America (probably in Maine or New England states). I have posted another dish of fiddlehead fern in the past. In that post, I said this was similar to “zenmai” ゼンマイ in Japan but Jon mentioned “Kogomi”こごみ in his comment. I learned this time that fiddlehead fern (Ostrich fern or “Kusasotetsu” 草ソテツ) is indeed called “Kogomi*” in Japanese. Although some varieties of ferns being eaten in Japan such as “zenmai” and “warabi” 蕨 do have small amount of carcinogens, sliminess and astringent flavors which require a special preparation, I learned that fiddlehead fern or “kogomi” does not have any significant toxins and could be eaten without special preparations. I did see fiddlehead fern previously in the spring and early summer in the near-by gourmet grocery store. This is the first time I saw pre-packaged fiddleheads (see below) and could not resist getting a package.
*Kogomi” こごみ is so named since the fiddlehead fern looks like somebody is bending forward (“kogomu” こごむ or “kagamu” かがむ).
On the package, it said “tastes like asparagus and young spinach”. Fiddlehead fern must be getting popular since it is being sold this way. Most of the Western recipes are for stir fry and salads. I decided to make “goma-ae” 胡麻和え or with sesame dressing.
This was quite good but the sesame dressing appears to overwhelm the subtle taste of fiddlehead fern.
This time I just simply cooked it since I did not have to worry about “toxins”. I washed and removed the discolored ends with a paring knife and boiled it for 5 minutes in salted boiling water and then shocked it in ice cold water. I then soaked it in water (I used filtered water) in a sealable container and kept it in the refrigerator (see below).
Sesame dressing: I first dry roasted white sesame seeds (1 tbs) on a frying pan until fragrant (2-3 minutes) and coarsely ground it in a Japanese suribachi すり鉢 mortar (leave a little whole for a garnish). I then added white sesame paste or “shiro-neri-goma” 白練り胡麻 (1 tbs). I seasoned with sugar (1/2 tsp), rice vinegar (optional, 1/2 tsp) and soy sauce (about 1 tbs, but I added incrementally until the taste and consistency. You could add water if the seasoning is OK but the consistency is too thick).
I just removed the fiddlehead fern from the water, dried on a paper towel and dressed. I garnished it with more white roasted sesame.
This is such a seasonal vegetable and it was nice to have this. As I mentioned, my sesame dressing was a bit too assertive. I should have omitted the vinegar.