Its that time of year again (using my sing song voice). All over the forest floors, near streams and rivers in this state we call home, one of the oldest and dearest memories I have is slowly emerging from the ground……..Fiddleheads !!!! These delectable, asparagus meets broccoli/green bean vegetables have been a part of my life since childhood. Fall evokes the need for wool, the buying of pencils, and a new pair of shoes, but spring means the stooping and picking and endless cleaning and subsequent eating of said baby fern.
I cannot even recall who taught me my how to pick fiddleheads, I am sure my Dad had a hand in it, but I presume my two older bothers Ed and Bob were there to instill the knowledge into my young mind.
I was once asked by my husband, who by the way never picked a fiddlehead in his life ! until he met me, of course then the lessons began in earnest, " how do you know which ones to pick ?"
My first thought was "doesn't everyone just know ?" but I stopped myself before the words escaped my lips. And so, the lesson began. The ferns are NOT the ones that look furry !!! ewwwww and they are a very particular and specific color of green, we'll call it, fiddlehead green. Also once the ferns become too leggy you mus'nt pick them, the taste will be very bitter.
I suppose the most imperative lesson to mention would be the geographics of the fiddlehead. This I spoke of earlier, ferns like moisture sooooo yes they will be near streams and rivers. Even more vital than where to find them is the ability, once you have found them, to never ever never, ever ever, tell a single solitary soul where your secret fiddle head patch lies. I have had a couple in my lifetime but the one I left behind when I moved to Orr's Island produced some of the biggest, and I must say easiest to clean fiddleheads of my lifetime remembrance.
You see only the deepest love can tear one away from a prime fiddlehead patch, and that is exactly what happened to me. My love carried me away to this lovely island and I now purchase my fiddleheads, yes I actually pay money for them. I just see it as contributing to the economy, yes that's my story and I am sticking to it.
Now you may see fiddleheads on a menu at a local restaurant, and some young chef has decided to "improve" their flavor with some a balsamic reduction, or put them in (god forbid) puff pastry. To those of us that grew up on eating fiddleheads we all know that is positively sacrileges !! Fiddleheads should be boiled or steamed until they are just beyond al dente and the only addition that can be made to enhance the flavor is a big pat of salty butter. Here's hoping you are eating some for dinner tonight .