I think that the appeal, arguably inordinate, of both ramps and fiddlehead ferns lies in some combination of their perceived status as harbingers of the real growing season, their fleeting appearance, and their romantic character as forage plants. Together these very particular attributes mean they have a status not entirely unrelated to the plant which which lent its name to the 17th-century tulip bubble. If it were just about the taste, both the North American wild onion and the ostrich fern might occupy positions little distinguishable from any of our other vegetables, but we have raised both to a status little supported by the intrinsic value of either.
I’m writing this as a cook, one who is very aware of the genuine appeal of both of these plants, but still mindful of the fact that for most of us their most engaging virtue (as forage spoils) cannot actually be realized, since the ‘finding’ has been accomplished by others, who then sell them to us in farmers’ markets.
This meal included both of these spring treasures, as well as a certain number of ingredients whose supply is somewhat more regular.
No hurray: Like so many dishes which combine disparate ingredients, the taste of this one improved dramatically as it slid closer to room temperature.
- the ingredients of this pasta meal, in the order of their introduction into a large copper pan which made the sauce, included one clove of organic garlic from Trader Joe’s, thickly-sliced; 4 roughly-sliced ramps from Lucky Dog Organic; 4 ounces of fiddleheads from Tamarack Hollow Farm; 6 halved Backyard Farms Maine ‘cocktail tomatoes’ from Whole Foods; a squeeze of organic lemon; dried Itria-Sirissi chili, peperoncino di Sardegna intero from Buon Italia; sea salt and freshly ground pepper, all tossed with about 7 ounces of Afeltra Zito Corto Rigato which had been cooked al dente, served with some grated Parmigiano Reggiano Vacche Rosse from Buon Italia scattered over the top of each shallow bowl
- the wine was an Italian (Sicily) white, Corvo Insolia 2013, from Philippe Wine in Chelsea
- the music was Pascal Dusapin’s ‘Etudes Pour Piano’, performed by Vanessa Wagner