Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Bracken Fiddleheads with Butter and Truffle Salt

Life was a little dull, and I wanted a thrill. So I went to a friend’s country block to pick young bracken, a food I have never sampled and have read about only on the internet. As you can see, I get my thrills quite easily these days.

The day was magnificent. We sat at the top of the hill and watched the weather sweep in hour after hour: sun, rain, hail, sleet, wet snow, dry powder – we got the lot. Great bands of clouds rushed across the sky; snow fell through a rainbow; and every form of precipitation dumped down on us.

Between showers, we picked juvenile bracken. We chose firm fresh looking stems, some still bent like a horseshoe, others upright but not yet unfurled. And when the next bout of weather swept in, we dashed back to the partial shelter of the tumbledown shack, warmed our tootsies by the roaring fire, and admired the show through the broken windows.

A day or so later, in a house with a complete roof and intact glazing, I prepared the bracken. I was slightly nervous, as bracken contains a known carcinogen; then again, so does red meat. So I washed it, blanched it, dumped it in an ice bath, soaked it, sautéd it, and served it up with a hint of truffles, as instructed. And then I discovered that none of us like it much. It was strong, nutty, but really not that great. Unusually for our family, we didn’t even finish the plateful. Meh.

As we have never eaten bracken before, I have no idea where the problem lies. Is Australian bracken unsavoury? Did I cook it badly? Or do we, quite simply, not like bracken? One day, I will travel overseas and sample bracken abroad. Until then, I will ponder these mysteries, and get my thrills via the weather instead.

If you want to try bracken yourself, click here. The link has a balanced discussion regarding bracken’s carcinogenic properties, and describes how to prepare it to minimise them. I followed the instructions and recipe in the link, but in place of truffle butter I used unsalted butter and truffle salt (a birthday present). I didn’t like it much, but perhaps you’ll fare better. If you have tried Australian bracken, please let me know how you cooked it, and what you think!



  1. I came here via googling "fiddleheads Melbourne" and carelessly read the text without noting its provenance.

    Got down to the comment box to, ahem, comment before I saw the "Posted by Alison Sampson". I'd only read your other non-food blogs before. You're ubiquitous in your awesomeness, aren't you just?

    I enjoyed this post very much. This type of fare often a bit hit-and-miss, isn't it? My first nettle experience was similar: Did I cook it wrong, is it just me, or is it possible that it's just not very good?

    Next year I'll let you know how I go on the fiddleheads.

    Brenneman Alpha

  2. Greetings Alpha, Me awesome? Hardly!!! Can't take a photo to save my life unlike Brenneman Beta or Gamma. Anyhoo, in reply to the last bit of your comment, I eat a fair few nettles - soup recipe here: - hope you've found ways to enjoy them too. I'm a big fan of eating weeds; we'll be jostling at the park for them I suspect. Alison.

  3. Hi there, ended up here looking for fiddleheads in australia! :) i'm a Nepalese native and it's a seasonal delicacy back home. Although it does seem to be an acquired taste for some. We usually cook it with some garlic ginger paste, season with dash of cumin and tomatoes to bring out the flavour! That's the key as without it, it turns out quite bland. Also it goes very well with spuds and it's the best to eat the next day. You'll also notice the spuds soak up the irony flavour by the second day and tastes great! Again, it does seem to be an acquired taste! Hope you enjoy this recipe!

    1. Garlic, ginger, cumin - now that would make anything amazing! Thanks for the tip! Alison

    2. Hi nikita, have you found this niuro in australia?

    3. Tashi deleg Nitika! I'm from the bush and the hills, many seasonal treats have flavours and textures that disagree with townsfolk. Happy cooking la!

  4. Hi it's known as "Kasrod" in Jammu and Kashmir (India). We cook it as a vegetable and pickle it. Kasrod ka achaar/fiddlehead fern pickle. The best pickle.