Yes, we are here!

At MOTHER EARTH GARDENER and MOTHER EARTH NEWS, we have been educating folks about the benefits of self-reliance for 50 years. That includes researching and sourcing the best books and products to help individuals master the skills they need in times like these and beyond. Our online store is open and we are here to answer any questions you might have. Our customer service staff is available Monday through Friday from 8a.m.-5p.m. CDT. We can be reached at 1-800-456-5835 or by email. Stay safe!

Finding Fiddleheads and Pickled Fiddlehead Recipe

Fiddleheads, a special type of fern frond that resembles the head of a violin, are easily found in the Northwestern U.S. in springtime and are often pickled.

| Winter 2015-16

  • The fronds hold their shape surprisingly well during cooking. These have been lightly steamed and drained. They want only a dollop of butter and a little salt and pepper, and then are fit for even a king’s table!
    Photo courtesy
  • To be safe, accompany an expert local fiddlehead hunter your first time out--he or she can show you the ropes, saving you a potentially dangerous error. My guide, Mike Brooker, shows me what to looks for when hunting the Maine variety--moist, partly shady terrain. The beaver-chewed tree is a nearly fool-proof sign that fiddleheads are to be found here.
    Photo courtesy

Nothing could be simpler than harvesting fiddleheads. But it’s a sound idea to be accompanied by a seasoned gatherer on your first time out. I felt fortunate to tag along with lifelong Mainer Michael Brooker, who gamely offered to show me the ropes. He took me to a lovely spot on his property, where the open woods sloped down to the edge of a beaver pond. It was a lovely site and would have been well worth an outing even without the prospect of harvesting the scrumptious morsels.

Mike showed me how to identify the correct species. He patiently presented examples of fiddleheads that were past the correct stage for harvesting, which is simple, because as soon as leaves begin to start bursting out of the tightly coiled frond, their peak has passed. I had expected him to demonstrate a particular type of setting for the Ostrich ferns, but it turned out, the plants weren’t that picky: fiddleheads were to be found in the soft earth at the margins of the pond, uphill from the water, in shade, and in the soft mid-May sunshine.

I marveled at Mike’s visual acuity: it seemed that in the time it took me to identify my next target, Mike had found at least half a dozen ferns and plucked them clean. It was the work of only an hour or two for him to fill the large canvas bag suspended from his belt.

To be fair, I was pretty distracted, this being my first foray into the springtime Boreal Forest. When not picking, I kept myself well entertained by observing the many amazing local plants coming into bloom in Maine’s sudden spring: dog-tooth violets, bleeding heart, and more.

Even so, despite taking pictures and incessant botanizing, I managed to come away with enough of the tender fronds to make a nice introduction to this venerable tradition. We washed them carefully, steamed them lightly, and served in the simplest way possible, with a dash of salt and pepper and a bit of butter. The flavor was delicate and mild, the texture was very tender and not the least bit stringy or bitter. We found them delicious in an understated way, and I was hooked. Next year, I will set my sights higher and eagerly plan to restock my typically-depleted springtime freezer.

Fiddleheads are often pickled and there are many ways to do so. The following is a recipe, from the University of Main Coperative Extension Bulletine #4198, entitled ‘Facts on Fiddleheads,” that will show you how to preserve your harvest.

Become a Preferred Subscriber and start enjoying the benefits today!

Fall in love with the flavor, versatility, and beauty of Mother Earth Gardener

Mother Earth GardenerDelight your taste buds, mind and eyes with beautiful photos and inspirational techniques on everything you need to know to grow, preserve and cook your own heirloom fruits and vegetables. You won’t want to miss the stories about plants passed down from generation to generation.

Don’t miss a single issue of Mother Earth Gardener. Published by the editors of MOTHER EARTH NEWS, Mother Earth Gardener provides decades of organic gardening experience from the most trusted voices in the field. Join today and save off the newsstand price! Get one year (4 issues) for only $24.95! (USA only)

Facebook Pinterest Instagram YouTube

click me