Cool weather and rain have made for a slow growing season thus far, while also creating the ideal conditions for fiddlehead ferns, which sprout in damp, wooded areas and more than compensate for sunbathing weather in our book.
What to Look For
Fiddlehead ferns, like truffles, are foraged by people in the know. Rare, and intensely seasonal, the curled green shoots look slightly menacing, but their flavor is sweet and asparagus-like. When cooked, they’re crunchy, with slightly gelatinous pan juices (think okra). Blanch first, since they can harbor bacteria, then sauté with other spring ingredients like asparagus or ramps for a heady celebration of these damp, delicious days ($8 per pound at Gorzynski, available Saturday).
Get out your biggest pot: This is turning into a booming spring lobster run. With luck, the supply of hard-shell lobsters weighing between one and two pounds will remain high through the rest of the month. Steam them, melt loads of butter, and arm diners with implements for cracking the shells, or do the hard part first, then dig in ($8 per pound for live lobsters at P.E. & D.D. available Monday and Saturday).
Wild arugula is back, and the spicy little oak-leaf–shaped green is a piquant addition to milder salads, cooked egg dishes, or a seasonal tangle of sautéed dandelion greens and spinach ($2 per bunch at Paffenroth, available Wednesday and Saturday).
Growers are bringing in more and different varieties of silken, delicate-flavored spring lettuce every week. Try Old Fashioned Iceberg, which combines the watery, refreshing qualities of iceberg with enough flavor to actually stand up to other ingredients. The swirled shape of the small, green and white heads make a gorgeous presentation when served whole, drizzled with blue-cheese dressing ($3 per half-pound at Yuno’s, available Monday and Friday).
It’s hard to miss the ramps at the market right now — they’re enormous, with elongated, glossy white bulbs and great fanlike leaves. But hot weather will do them in, and we’ll miss the oniony shoots once they’re gone, so get your fill — this week could well be their last (widely available at the Greenmarket — for now!).
Overhead at the Market: Complaints Department
“Nothing like three straight months of asparagus.”