While the world may be turned upside down this spring and hold many uncertainties for us all, I’ve been thankful for the rhythms of nature that have helped provide a sense of normalcy while it is in short supply. For me the emergence of buds, spring wildflowers, and ferns in the spring signals the return of many beloved plants, including that of the ostrich fern which is a particularly notorious edible plant in early May when it’s first fronds emerge, which are more commonly known as fiddleheads. Every year my family takes to the river for a Mother’s Day paddle, and while out on the water stopping for lunch and foraging for fiddleheads has become a time honored (and tasty) tradition.
With an early spring and warm weather, I’ve been fortunate to spend socially distanced time along the rivers foraging for fiddleheads. Instead of eating them all for dinner, I also decided to preserve some this year by pickling them. You can find the recipe I used for crunchy pickled fiddleheads here if you too would like to bottle up a little bit of spring for when winter rolls back around.
As a spring time favorite of many, it’s worth a reminder that foraging responsibly is of the utmost importance, not only to ensure that you aren’t foraging on someone else’s land without permission, but also to ensure that you aren’t overharvesting and obtaining your tasty meal at the expense of the fern. It is also worth a reminder that fiddleheads cannot be eaten raw, as they can cause food borne illness if not prepared properly, and the University of Maine Cooperative Extension is a great resource on what you need to know before eating fiddleheads, as well as different methods of how to prepare and preserve them.
While you may find fiddleheads at your local grocer, getting outside and foraging (responsibly) for them yourself is a great way to safely be outside, feed yourself, and fall in step with spring. You can learn more about fiddleheads, their biology, and their cultural importance in Maine here.
~Margaret Gerber, BTLT Stewardship Manager