Fiddlehead Ferns

I missed the boat on the fiddlehead fern crop that grows wild in my yard. The fronds have completely unfurled and the ferns are fully grown. It’s too late to harvest them for dinner.

This is such a disappointment. I had been looking forward to trying fiddleheads and had been eagerly anticipating their tightly coiled bodies sprouting from the ground. I wanted to know why this most prosaic plant had become such a delicacy.

When Eric and I first started dating, he took me to what was then Montreal’s hottest restaurant, Toqué. It was a little too innovative for my taste. All the dishes on the menu showcased the most random combinations of ingredients. For example, one of us (I no longer remember who) ordered scallops with wild Maine blueberries and fiddlehead ferns. That, my friends, was the most sensible sounding entrée on the menu. I remember thinking it was so strange to add ferns, something that grows in my backyard, something that dinosaurs feasted on tens of millions of years ago, to what was supposedly a gourmet dish. Frankly, it still strikes me as odd, but now I’m willing to eat them as Vermonters do, with lots of butter and salt.

I realize now that the reason I missed the fiddleheads in my yard when they were young is because they were completely covered by weeds. I couldn’t see them growing. Next year I will know to peek between the weeds throughout the month of April so that I can catch the ferns while they’re young.

Fortunately, I may still have a chance to sample fiddlehead ferns: There’s on old, blind farmer who lives on route 7A who sells them every year. When I was passing by his home the other day, I saw the wooden sign he puts out on his property every spring. It reads: FIDDLEHEAD FERNS.


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