Last call for Fiddleheads: Now we eat them, soon we won’t

Last call for Fiddleheads: Now we eat them, soon we won’t

Heady times: Fiddleheads come but once a year (Photo by Foodista) 

The season’s first locavore love affair is about to come to an end. Fiddleheads—the fern fronds harvested for only one month each spring—have been popping up on menus throughout the city recently, but experts advise that the coming weekend (and the onset of stem-shrivelling summer heat) will likely mark the end of the veggie’s short season. Even the most optimistic predictions have the Polkaroo of plant life on Toronto plates for another week. We scavenged for details of what five of the city’s top chefs are doing with the of-the-moment ingredient.

At the farm-to-table restaurant Globe Bistro, chef Kevin McKenna is serving up the shoots in his daily tribute to eat-local culture, the Canada’s Finest special, which rotates daily. For example, the heads have turned up in a warm salad with B.C. crab and sheep’s milk crème fraîche. McKenna’s brother Mike forages for the greens near Michael Stadtländer’s Eigensinn Farm. But the season-savvy chef has another trick up his sleeve: he plans to pickle the plants to extend their lifespan.

Jamie Kennedy raises vegetation galore at his Prince Edward County farm, but even he can’t produce enough to keep up with demand; he relies on several sources to supply the Wine Bar with the limited-edition flora. At the Church Street restaurant, they’re served sautéed with wild greens and shallots in butter alongside a Cumbrae entrecôte of beef.

At Trevor Kitchen, the crispy heads (which have a satisfying snap if properly blanched) are currently the side of choice. They accompany any plate—even dessert, for the true devotee. The Ontario shoots arrived just two weeks ago courtesy of Royal Produce and are prepared with ramps (also known as wild leeks), bacon and butter.

Known for intriguing carnivore-friendly selections, La Palette’s chef, Brook Kavanaugh, combines the shoots with game meats—wild buffalo loin, Nunavut caribou, bison rib-eye—to offset rich, fleshy flavours with more earthy elements. The Kensington spot will keep the leafy favourite coming for a while yet, as Kavanaugh also plans to pickle for staying power.

Master forager Jim Giggie’s fiddleheads—he’s considered the go-to guy—are served at Mildred’s Temple Kitchen in a salad with creamy buffalo mozzarella topped with a tomato vinaigrette. They’re also paired with celery under thinly sliced seared tuna and mushroom cream.