Dance to the beat of the rain, little Fern,
And spread out your palms again,
Tho’ the sun
Hath my vesture spun,
He had labored, alas, in vain,
But for the shade
That the Cloud hath made,
And the gift of the Dew and the Rain.
Then laugh and upturn
All your fronds, little Fern,
And rejoice in the beat of the rain!
-John Banister Tabb, “Fern Song”, 1894
Fiddleheads are a sure sign of spring here in the North East, and the fact that they are edible make them doubly exciting! They are an excellent foraging food, as they can be eaten raw or cooked. If you plan on harvesting these baby ferns on your lonesome, be sure that you are trimming from the correct variety, usually Ostrich Fern, and that you harvest no more than three fronds per plant. The ferns only shoot up 5 to 7 new fronds a year, and you sure want to have some for next spring as well!
As for the taste, everything is better when browned in butter, and the same goes for fiddleheads. They are reminiscent of asparagus in taste, slightly bitter. The butter gets trapped in its unfurled leaves, tempting you to play with your food and uncurl the fronds to reach the best parts.
Why it should be in the Next Book:
There are several cases where characters in the books have to forage desperately for something to eat. They resort to eating all sorts of dreadful things, but if they had some fiddleheads, they would be all set. Well, maybe not quite. But less likely to die of scurvy!
- 2 cups trimmed and washed fiddleheads
- pat of butter (about the width of your thumb)
- salt and pepper to taste