Spring has sprung on campus: daffodils and crocuses are blooming in the library flower beds. Students are playing frisbee on the green. And in the woods, intrepid gatherers are gearing up for another springtime tradition in Maine: fiddleheading. Fiddleheads, in case you haven't been exposed to this woodsy delicacy, are the emerging fronds of the Ostrich Fern. And they are delicious: something like a cross between spinach and asparagus.
Fiddlehead gathering is a time-honored tradition in western Maine, dating from a time when trucked-in supermarket produce was non-existent, and people eagerly awaited the nutritious fern shoots after a long winter with no fresh greens. (Fiddleheads are rich in potassium, and are also high in Omega 3 and Omega 6 essential acids, and are a great source of iron and fiber - and they are antioxidant, to boot!) Like fishing holes, good fiddleheading spots are closely guarded family secrets - especially to those whose fiddleheading serves not only as a source of food but income, as well. But since education is our mission around here, and as part of our On Our Minds theme of promoting healthy greens in the diet, I'm going to give you the tools you need to become a fiddleheader. Just remember: pick no more than three fiddleheads per plant, and don't pick from all the ferns in a patch. Overpicking will kill the ferns.
The following video features all-around good guy and great teacher, Dave Fuller, who heads up the University of Maine Co-operative Extension office here in Farmington. Dave is going to show us how to identify fiddleheads. Get your wellies on...fiddleheading is muddy business. Ready?
Take it away, Dave...
For more information on cleaning and cooking your harvest, visit the Co-operative Extension Fiddlehead Fact Sheet.