One of the things I make every year in early spring is a simple fiddlehead soup recipe with whatever wild vegetables I can find. It's loosely based on the French vegetable soup aux pistou: a vegetable soup topped with pesto. It's perfect for celebrating Spring's bounty of edible wild plants.
The traditional recipes that I'm familiar with are similar to minestrone in that it they uses a combination of vegetables, mostly from garden season: things like tomatoes, zucchini, potatoes, green beans etc. A spring version is really fun, and a different way to use ostrich ferns if you're used to sautéing them.
You could use many combinations of spring vegetables, but I like to try and get different flavors and textures into the mix, instead using, say, all leafy greens.
This version is 100% spring. The vegetables I used are listed below, but you could also use burdock roots, young dock leaves, or spring beauty greens. Instead of ostrich ferns you can also use lady ferns.
Wild Spring Vegetables
- Spring-dug wild parsnips
- Ramp leaves and bulbs
- Meat: turkey would be perfect but venison is what I had.
Traditionally, pistou is basically a pesto without cheese. Here I use ramp leaf pesto. Feel free to use whatever is convenient for you. Stinging Nettle Pesto with pumpkinseeds would be great too.
If you look online, you'll see plenty of creamy fiddlehead soup recipes. Fiddleheads don't need any heavy cream to taste good, and cream of fiddlehead soups are unappealing to me. A little onion and garlic, some meat, mushrooms or vegetables is all you need.
Fiddlehead Ferns: Identifying, Harvesting and Cooking
Ramps: Harvesting, Sustainability, Cooking and Recipes
Fiddlehead Soup with Vegetables and Pesto
- 3 tablespoons lard or oil
- 4 oz 1 cup sliced ramp bulbs and stems, or greens onions and a clove of garlic
- 12 oz meat or mushrooms *see note
- 4 oz roots like parsnips or sunchokes
- ½ cup dry white wine
- 4.5 cups vegetable broth or meat broth
- 2 oz fiddleheads cleaned of papery husk
- 2 oz mixed greens of your choice like nettles
- 2 oz ramp leaves chopped
- ½ cup ramp pesto or use your favorite pesto
- Kosher salt to taste
- ½ cup cooked beans your choice (optional)
- Blanch the fiddleheads in boiling water for one minute, then drain and allow to cool. Reserve the fiddleheads.
- Sweat the meat in the fat until cooked, then add the ramps or other onions and cook for a minute more.
- Add the wine and reduce by half.
- Add the stock, parsnips, beans, a pinch of salt, bring the mixture to a simmer and cook until the parsnips are tender, about 15 minutes.
- Add the fiddleheads, ramp leaves and nettles, cook until the nettles are wilted.
- Taste the seasoning and adjust for salt as needed, then serve in bowls garnished with spoonfuls of the ramp pistou.
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