Fiddleheads, Asparagus, and Ramps (Oh My!)

Melissa McClelland, Edible Cleveland contributor and professional food stylist, recently shared a special tradition that she enjoyed around her spring birthday.
“With my birthday falling right at the time that fiddleheads, ramps, and asparagus become available, I began making a risotto that incorporates them all,” she says.
This conversation coincided with my desire to learn more about the quirky fiddlehead fern.
Here at Edible Cleveland, we don’t do much with “wild foods” without consulting foraging expert and Edible Cleveland contributor Jeremy Umansky, who never fails to illuminate us with his knowledge of the woodlands. “The matteuccia struthioperis, a.k.a. ostrich fern, is both cultivated and wild,” he says. “Many of my neighbors in Cleveland Heights have them landscaped in their yards, but you will find them in the wild at riverbanks and flood plains.”
Melissa plans to add some ostrich ferns in her new kitchen garden. But for this recipe, Melissa went to the North Union Farmers Market at Shaker Square to purchase all the fresh spring ingredients for her risotto—fiddleheads, asparagus, and ramps. This dish is the Triple Crown of springtime and is a lighter style risotto than most. Vegetables for this dish came from Weaver’s Truck Patch, a vendor at North Union’s Shaker Square and Crocker Park markets.
The recipe itself is quite versatile. Melissa had some spring peas on hand and tossed them in. You can get as creative and seasonal as you like. Scouring your favorite farm market for just-picked ingredients makes this even better.
“A shortcut I discovered along the way—by adding the delicate green vegetables to the hot vegetable broth—(gives them) a chance to poach before being stirred into the cooked rice, eliminating a step,” Melissa says.
She did indeed enjoy this for her birthday dinner, along with an Italian white wine, Roero Arneis from Franco Serra, purchased just down the street at The Wine Spot for a pleasing $13.
— Lisa Sands with Melissa McClelland. Photos by Len Mastri