Aren't these beautiful?
I found them at the grocery store the other day: fiddleheads. You see them around briefly at this time of year - they're the springtime furls of an ostrich fern, and if you get them at just the right time, they're delicious (wait too long, with the fronds uncurling, and they're bitter.)
For years now I've wanted to try fiddleheads, and when I saw these I thought, Yup, this is the year. I'll saute them in a little butter and finally see what the fuss is about.
I figured I'd look around online for a good recipe first though, or at least see if there were tips about the brown stuff on the ends of some of the cuttings (there is; you wash it off.) Epicurious had suggestions about washing the fiddleheads in few different bowlfuls of water, presumably to get out any grit, and some very fussy recipes I didn't have the energy for, so I kept looking.
And guess what I found out? Fiddleheads will make you super sick if you don't cook 'em right!
The rinsing isn't just for grit, it's to wash off whatever toxin causes the problem, and that's why you have to keep changing the water. You can't do anything with the cooking water either, because it could have toxins in it.
Thank goodness I didn't just go ahead and throw them in a pan with butter.
(and no, I never did cook them... I think I'll wait for a year when somebody else who's done it a lot can show me how.)