Gosari is the Korean term for dried fernbrake - or fiddleheads - the tightly curled new fronds of the common Bracken Fern.
Fiddleheads have been prepared and eaten on several continents for hundreds, or perhaps thousands, of years. But there are some precautions you should take with it.
Within bracken fern lurks a substance called ptalquiloside. It’s a known carcinogen, and therefore, NOT our friend, but because it is 1) water-soluable, and 2) breaks down in warmer temperatures, steps can be taken to greatly reduce the levels of this harmful stuff in your hard-earned harvest.
First, you should soak the fiddleheads in cold water for several hours, changing the water often. Second, at some point in the preparation process you should boil bracken fern in salted water for 30 minutes or longer, making it both tender and safer for consumption.
That said, I encourage you to do your research and decide yourself what your comfort level with this is. I’m told that different fern varieties, such as the Lady Fern, contain less or even no ptalquiloside, so perhaps you could educate yourself and use only those types if there is lingering concern.
Kimmy and I harvest the traditional Bracken Fern, soak it, dehydrate it, store it in air-tight baggies and for months following, boil to reconstitute and then use and enjoy it in dishes like Bibimbap (Rice Topped with Vegetables) and Yukgaejang (Beef Stew with Vegetables.)
I’m going to share her recipe for Yukgaejang with you. We enjoy it so much and I think you will find it an enjoyable way to celebrate your adventurous experience!
2 Tablespoons sesame oil
2 Tablespoons gochugaru (red chili pepper flakes)
1/2 large yellow onion
2 Tablespoons minced garlic
1 cup rehydrated gosari
8-10 cups beef broth
8 ounces Korean radish, cut into chunks
3 shiitake mushrooms, sliced (other mushroom varieties may also be used.)
1 teaspoon (or more) gochujang ( chili pepper paste)
1 teaspoon doenjang (fermented soybean paste)
2 tablespoons guk ganjang (soup soy sauce)
2 bunches scallions, sliced
salt and pepper
Place dried gosari into a small pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and boil for 30 minutes or longer.
Rinse in cold water, drain and cut into 3-4 inch lengths. Set Aside.
Put 2 tablespoons of sesame oil on the bottom of a large stock pot, heat and add the gochugaru chili pepper flakes. Cook over medium-high heat until the oil begins to turn red from the pepper flakes, turn down to medium then add the onion and garlic; saute until the onion is translucent. Do not burn the chili flakes.
Add the gochujang chili pepper paste, and doenjang soybean paste to mixture. (More or less chili paste can be used to create desired level of spice.)
Add beef broth, shredded beef, radish, mushrooms, gosari (fiddleheads,) and guk ganjang soup soy sauce. Stir to combine.
Boil over medium heat, covered, for 20 minutes.
Add scallions and boil for another 10 minutes.
Season with 1 teaspoon salt (or more) and pepper to taste.
Serve with rice.
Dried and packaged gosari is readily available at Korean markets and since you’ll probably be making a trip to one for several of the ingredients, you could elect to skip the harvesting expedition and go right to making and enjoying this dish!