Fiddlehead season is upon us!
But first, we had to get through tax season. And now with crocus finally daring to breathe above the earth’s surface to herald the promise of spring, I’m finally able to take a deep breath myself and focus on creativity again. Creativity is a source of therapy with the opportunity to share thoughts with others, as well as explore our individual selves. What better time to imbibe in creative freedom than springtime with its sense of renewal and rebirth.
Our agriculturally blessed community is showing renewed interest in growing sustainable, healthy food access. Through the winter months, Lisa Laflin, Director of the United Way of the Tri-Valley, in coordination with the local Food Council has been working to coordinate a grand week of events that promote local food. Growing Roots: A week-long celebration and exploration of food in Greater Franklin County will an exciting week, starting April 29th with the “Catholic Parish Food Summit” at St. Joseph’s Church on Middle St in Farmington, 11:45 am – 3:00 pm, culminating with the annual Maine Fiddlehead Festival at the University of Maine at Farmington, Emery Arts Center on May 5th 10:00 am -3:00 pm. All are welcome, and all events are free. Check with Lisa for more details. I’ll be posting on my Local Food Day: Maine Fiddlehead Festival Facebook page a copy of the poster, as well as distributing it in my newsletter to blog subscribers.
I have a friend, David Spahr who has written books in which he shares his foraging knowledge. He sources most of his food from foraging and puts his harvests together to make inspired meals. I’m always impressed. I’m not a great forager myself. Unless, of course, you count foraging in refrigerators for leftovers. A talent some in my family admire and which they lack. No doubt some of you know exactly how that is.
When I was a little girl, I was fortunate to grow up surrounded by 48 acres of trees. Among the trees were trails where a little girl growing into adulthood could find solace. The branches offered canopies which provided seclusion for time to think. All around on the forest floor grew all kinds of opportunities for foraging and I was pretty good at finding checkerberry leaves for mom to make jelly.
Pine needles were a great find for making tea, as well as beechnuts later in the summer. Yet another opportunity was for harvesting fiddleheads.
My first time picking fiddleheads was not a successful adventure. I had heard adults speak of them and how delicious they were so one day I thought I would surprise my mother and harvest a large bowl of these delectable goodies. Alas, the ones I harvested were imposters! I had harvested ferns which were encased in brown fuzz, rather than the fiddle-esque ones with brown papery coats.
Proudly I presented my mother with my offering, but I soon became greatly saddened as she informed me of my error. No worries! She took me for a short walk and taught me what to look for and where to find them most plentifully. I learned how to identify them and cut them just so while leaving some for regrowth. She cautioned me not to pick an area clean, but to take what was needed and leave the rest. Wise words for life through my mother’s eyes.
Fiddlehead foraging season is short but well worth the effort whether you go out into the forest to find them or stop by a roadside stand or farmer’s market. These little gems are highly prized delicacies for restaurants.
If you venture out new to this adventure, be sure you know what you’re doing. Ask for assistance, when you’re not sure.
The Maine Fiddlehead Festival will offer the opportunity for more learning, but in the meantime here are some bullet points.
- Only take 2 or 3 heads from each clump. Leave some to mature and reproduce.
- Take only what you need and leave some for the next picker.
- Ask landowner’s permission before picking.
- Served as a vegetable, they are actually a fern.
- 100 grams (1/2 cup) has 6 grams of carbohydrate, 4.6 grams of protein, and a whopping 370 grams of potassium
I just finished a team effort with Jonathan Farley who owns Smaht!, a website development and marketing business. We designed a 14-page fiddlehead recipe book.
Within its pages, you will also find information from the University of Maine Extension office that covers how to identify, harvest, and prepare these beauties. Enjoy!