This vegetarian curry features a few of my favorite wild foods.
I made it with special ingredients that are available here in upstate NY in the spring: ramps (which I foraged myself in the woods of my friend Susie’s beautiful farm), wild fiddleheads (purchased at my local natural foods store), and dandelion greens (I’ve got tons of these in my yard, but opted for the organic ones at the natural foods store this time).
Wild foods are fun to eat and they are wonderful sources of vitamins and minerals. If you can’t find one of more of these ingredients where you live, though, don’t worry: I’ve given you some ideas for substitutions.
If you aren’t familiar with fiddleheads, they are the curled head of the ostrich fern plant. You may be able to find them from April-May at your Farmer’s Market, natural foods store, or they can also be harvested in the wild. They grow in many areas of the United States, generally in the woods near water and where there is some light.
It’s important to eat only the fiddleheads of the fern plant, and according to Identifying and Harvesting Edible and Medicinal Plants in Wild (and Not So Wild) Places by “Wildman” Steve Brill with Evelyn Dean, once they’ve unfurled, they become poisonous.
While Wildman Steve does not caution against eating them raw, I’ve read that it’s best to steam/boil them for at least 10 minutes before you eat them, to minimize any chance of foodborne illness or stomach upset. Apparently there were some cases of toxicity associated with eating raw fiddleheads back in 1990, so I personally wouldn’t eat them raw.
Again, make sure to purchase fiddleheads that are tightly curled, clean them well, and be sure to trim the stems off before preparing them to eat.
The recipe is adapted from this one, which was originally inspired by the delicious Tomato and Coconut Fish Curry recipe in the talented Monica Bhide’s wonderful book, Modern Spice: Inspired Indian Flavors for the Contemporary Kitchen. The chutney was also inspired by Monica.
Spring Vegetable Coconut Curry Recipe
* 2 tablespoons organic coconut oil or ghee
* 1 teaspoon black mustard seeds
* 1 1/2 inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and minced
* 4 whole ramps, chopped fine (use 4 cloves of peeled garlic if you don’t have ramps)
* 1 Serrano chili pepper, minced (leave the seeds in if you want your curry to be spicy)
* 1 large sweet potato, peeled and chopped into cubes
* one 14 oz. can organic whole coconut milk
* 1 cup fiddleheads, rinsed very well and cleaned of all debris (use 1 cup asparagus tips if you don’t have fiddleheads)
* 1 cup chopped dandelion greens (use collards or kale if you don’t have dandelion greens)
* 1 bell pepper, cored, seeded and chopped (I used half of a red one and half of an orange one)
* 1 large tomato, chopped
* 1 teaspoon tumeric
* 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
* 1/4 teaspoon sea salt- optional
1. In a large skillet or wok, melt the coconut oil or ghee over medium heat. Add the mustard seeds and cook for a minute or two until they “pop”, then add the ginger, minced ramps, and chili pepper. Stir everything around for a minute or so.
2. Add the chopped sweet potato to the pan along with the coconut milk. Bring to a boil, and then reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add a little water if the liquid seems too thick.
3. While the sweet potato is cooking, place your clean fiddleheads in a pot of water on the stove and bring to a boil. Allow to boil for 10 minutes (fiddleheads are a wild food, and this is the recommended preparation so that you don’t become ill from them…better safe than sorry). After they’ve been boiled for 10 minutes, drain and set aside.
4. Add the fiddleheads, the dandelion greens, the bell pepper, and the tomato to the sweet potatoes. Simmer for another 15 minutes, or until the vegetables are very tender, again adding a little water if necessary.
5. Mix in the spices (and salt, if using). Cook for another minute or two. Taste and adjust the spices, if necessary. Remove from the heat and allow to cool slightly while you proceed with the chutney.
Ramp Cilantro Chutney
makes about 1 cup
* about 3/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
* green tops of 4 ramps, chopped fine (use 1/4 cup chopped mint if you don’t have ramps)
* juice of 1/2 lime
* 1 teaspoon organic sugar
Mix the minced ramp tops with the cilantro in a small bowl. Add the fresh lime juice and the sugar. Mix well, and serve over the curry.
This post is linked to the April 30th 2010 edition of Fight Back Friday at Food Renegade!