One of the things my grandmother loved to do was fiddlehead hunt. I myself have never done such thing but I know it is a New England delicacy and more than likely served in every gourmet restaurant during the month of May. See, there is a two week span of time when the fiddlehead harvest happens, no time is set as it depends on the amount of rain and adequate temperature for the fiddles to make their appearance. Then a flurry of North American foragers descend on all of our woods.
I understand there is only one fern that qualifies as a fiddlehead and that is the Ostrich fern (Matteuccia struthiopteris), it is aptly named because the fronds resemble an ostrich tail. They are fairly easy to identify as young sprouts....having grooves in the stem similar to celery, smooth not furry, and surrounded by a brown papery material that shouldn't stick to the stem. This is referred to as chaff.
When one harvests ANYTHING from NATURE, the rule of thumb is to not take more than what can be replenished. In this case, every other frond is acceptable. Timing is critical as the fiddlehead should not have more than a two inch stem when cut. Fiddleheads are named such because of the uncurling fern resembling a scroll head top of a fiddle.
I have put together a idea of how to cook these greens. Best thing to do is to start by soaking them in salted water for a few hours, this will rid them of bugs and insects. The next step is to parboil them, changing water twice, this removes the bitterness the fiddleheads tend to have. Do not overcook, soggy fiddleheads are not what you are looking for, desirable flavor comes with the veggie being crunchy. The final cooking is to saute them in butter with garlic, cook in stirfry, or simply marinate in vinegar oil. Either way the fiddles are commonly served with a vegetable and taste like a cross between asparagus and broccoli, or to some, okra and peas. Fiddles are a good source of vitamin A and C.
This picture is of a recent walk that prompted me to think about my grandmother, if you look close, Tartarus's nose is pointing to some fiddles on a island. This picture is of our brook that borders our back property line, there are more ferns in a little spot lower in the water. Tatarus did make it to the island on this day although no one knows how. Tatarus is such a gentle dog and can't go far from where I'm located.
I want to include a picture of the recent bloom in my yard.....painted trillium. I look forward to this every year because it means our spring might have a little Jack Frost left, spring being the key word.
This post is for my grandmother who I can picture sitting down at the table with a plate of fiddleheads atop of a pile of corn. Enjoying eating in her Barbarba Stanwyck, stoical, independent way, and for my grandfather who I know sat at the table with..... steak and potatoes.
with love and respect......in the garden....