May 15, 2011

Fiddleheads...tasty furled fronds of the young fern

8am. Raining. Not exactly the weather one wants when planning to pick fiddleheads, but then in such a situation as nature dictates there is little room to wait since the season is approximately 3 weeks. This makes the fiddlehead the one true wild, seasonal vegetable. In the morning's damp dripping powerful silence I realized that it is something that I have never saw being imported in January, unlike asparagus. Picking, eating or bathing with them makes the experience a privileged one even with the stinging nettles against the skin. And who can deny the incredible beauty and elegant unfurling of the fern itself?

Local wisdom one should follow : do not pick everything you see. They grow in tightly packed bunches, and it is best to pick only half of them. All this will ensure that the following year there will be more. I am told that a properly respected area of edible fern will last a hundred years.

And where does one find them? Like certain people with their fishing spots, I suddenly felt the same about this beautiful fiddlehead patch I was standing in. I love sharing artisans, promoting very small farms, but now and again we all have a secret, and this tiny land with its unfurling fern is one of them. Remember, part of the search is part of the acute pleasure....

Many varieties of fern exist, but the ostrich fern is the only edible one in Canada. It differs from the cinnamon fern or royal fern by its rib which looks a lot like young celery. 'Under no circumstances should fiddleheads be eaten raw' a health Canada site warns....Personally I am still alive, but they are pretty bitter raw, so it is best to cook them anyway.

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