I've never lived in fiddlehead fern country, so I was thrilled to find pickled fiddlehead ferns on my chicken liver plate at Sitka & Spruce last week--and flabbergasted when a comment writer likened the snack to "cork taint." Doesn't everybody like the woodsy snap of tightly-wound fiddleheads?
"They're polarizing," Chaz Shamseldin of Frank's Produce told me when I found him arranging a recent shipment at his Pike Place Market stand this morning. "Some love them, some hate them."
Shamseldin counts himself in the latter group.
"I like asparagus better," he says, adding today's the first day he's carrying locally grown asparagus. "I find fiddleheads to be too grassy."
Shamseldin suspects the ubiquity of fiddleheads contributes to their unpopularity in certain local circles. While ramps' pungency could make them an equally easy target for scorn, Shamseldin reports that all of his customers--who consider them a delicacy--love them. That's not the case back in the onion's native Appalachia, where they carry the stigma of poverty food.
Although Shamseldin doesn't "like the taste" of ferns, he has no plans to stop stocking them, since the green Ionic curls reliably provoke tourists' interest. As Shamseldin plucked ends off fiddleheads, he was twice interrupted by shoppers asking him to identity the plant.
"From a business standpoint, they get people to stop," he says.