The tender shoots of ferns that grow along mossy creek banks are one of spring's rare treats. Most highly prized is the cinnamon fern, which tastes of both asparagus and artichoke. Bracken and ostrich ferns are good, too, though tougher and saltier. Canned ferns are available in specialty shops, but the best are those you pick fresh yourself.
Sort and discard any ferns that are discolored. Cut off the stems (you want only the tightly curled "heads"). Wash carefully in cool water to remove all traces of sand. Place ferns in a saucepan along with salt, pepper, and boiling water. Cover and simmer for 20-30 minutes until tender. Drain well, add butter and toss lightly to mix.