So what are these spring vegetables that get my heart racing and my mouth watering? If you are a fan, you already know: Asparagus, Ramps, Morels, and Fiddlehead Ferns! My mouth waters just thinking of these culinary delights, but my kitchen creativity is put on hold. Why? Because when you have something like fresh from the ground Fiddlehead Ferns, you want to enjoy them in all of their fresh green glory. I get shaky just thinking of going commando on the delicate vegetables of spring. They are really best left alone and allowed to shine in their unique delicious way.
I live in a pretty accessible area. I can get just about anything I want at just about any time, but certain foodstuffs elude me. Maybe because I am not fully aware of the resources available to me, though I am learning and enjoying the hunt. Most of these spring vegetables were first introduced to me, not in my own kitchen, but at restaurants. My first Morel mushroom was served as simply as can be, and I was hooked. Asparagus was never a part of the dining room table when I was coming up, and when I finally found the slender beauties to be to my liking, I rejoiced. Ramps and Fiddlehead Ferns have been in my repertoire now over 10 years, but I still remember the thrill of having been introduced to them
Asparagus is one of those venerable spring vegetables. Everyone knows asparagus, and whether as kids the spears had to choked down, or as adults we have discovered their seductiveness, asparagus is at its freshest and most abundant in the spring
Morels may be a little more elusive. Mushrooms in general have a strong following, but also a very vocal base of haters. The Morel suffers at the hands of the unfamiliar, nevermind that they are not as popular as the Shiitake or the Portobello. This is due in part to the fact that the availability is not only localized, but very short. There are two types of Morels, the West Coast Black Morel, and the mid-western blonde Morel. The season runs, generally, from April 1 to May 1. With such limited availability, the Morel is not an inexpensive mushroom, but it is one of the most unique. Their distinctive honeycomb look, woodsy aroma, and tart wild flavor are to be enjoyed in the purest preparation, sauteed with a little butter and served hot. Morels are not the stand-alone fungi, as Portobello can be, and are best served as a compliment to baked fresh fish or a heady, herb-encrusted fowl.
Ramps are even more elusive. They are the same plant as the wild leek, a wild-growing onion. They have incredibly fresh green leaves with small white bulbous roots. They are known as Ramps in the Appalachian range where they grow. Harvest in the Appalachian range begins around the middle of April. Within a few weeks of that harvest they are found and harvested in the Great Lakes region where they are called Wild Leeks. Ramps are harvested quite early and never reach more than six inches in length. They are best suited to fresh spring salads, though a plate of sauteedd ramps sounds incredibly appealing. Like leeks, ramps can be quite dirty, so it is best to wash them thoroughly before slicing, sauteeing, and serving. As with any of these fresh spring vegetables, long-term storage is not recommended. The sooner you enjoy yourpurchase, they happier with it you will be.
Fiddlehead Ferns are the most elusive of all spring vegetables. They are available for 6 or 7 days, at the most, in the heart of springtime, okay, that might be extreme, but unless you know where to find them, they may as well be available only 24 hours. So why bother seeking them out? If you have ever wanted to taste spring, the Fiddlehead Fern is the vegetable to promise you that experience and more. Vaguely reminiscent of asparagus, Fiddlehead Ferns have a nutty flavor all their own and can be used in much the same way. Fiddlehead Ferns match culinarily-well with cheese, marinara sauces, and East Asian cuisine, and are delicious with a nice homemade hollandaise sauce. The best Fiddlehead Ferns have a crisp texture, both raw and after cooked, but it should be noted that it is not recommended that Fiddlehead Ferns be eaten raw, at least not in any considerable quantity.
Perhaps it was the scent of the sprouts of these vegetables that I caught the other morning. Maybe it was the ground relinquishing itself to the prospect of giving life to the freshest of vegetables. No matter what it was, I foresee at least a few lunches and dinners highlighted with the best of what spring has to offer: the vegetables of spring.
Quiche of springtime vegetables
Ingredients 1 9 inch pie crust, fit into a 9 inch deep fish pie plate 1 1/2 tablespoons butter 1 cup chopped ramps 1/4 pound fiddlehead ferns House salt Black peppercorns in a pepper mill 1 1/2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves 1/2 teaspoon dry mustard 4 large eggs 1 cup half and half 2 tablespoons flour 1/4 teaspoon Texas Pete’s hot sauce, then to taste 1 packed cup grated Jarlsburg cheese 8 asparagus snapped in half, bottoms saved for vegetable stock Paprika
Method Heat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit
Melt the butter in a small pan and add the ramps. Saute over medium heat for a few minutes. When they begin to soften, add the fiddlehead ferns, salt, pepper, thyme, and mustard. Saute 5 minutes longer and remove from heat.
Combine eggs, milk, and flour in a blender or food processor and beat well. Spread the grated cheese over the bottom of the prepared crust and spread the onion-mushroom mixture on top. Pour in the custard, and sprinkle the top with paprika. Arrange the asparagus in a pinwheel fashion over the surface of the quiche
Bake Quiche of springtime vegetables 40 minutes or until solid in the center. Let the quiche rest for 15 minutes or up to 30 minutes and server very warm or at room temperature