Fiddleheadin’

They’re green, leafy, curly and taste a bit like spinach. Fiddleheads – another Maine delicacy I was eager to try this spring.

The husband and I headed out to the Union River this weekend for a morning of fly fishing and while we did not come home with any fish, I did fill a bag full of fiddleheads, the baby ferns that pop up each spring curled into themselves.

I didn’t know what to expect and having grown up hearing about how dangerous mushroom harvesting can be, I tried to do as much research as possible. I found an article by the BDN’s own outdoor writer, Aislinn Sarnacki that outlined what to look for.

In Maine, fiddlehead harvesters should look for baby ostrich ferns which are about an inch in diameter and have a deep groove on the inside of the stem, according to the story. In addition, the stem should look smooth and fuzz-free.

The fuzz was key in my search. When we first arrived, I saw hundreds of fuzzy, light-colored fiddleheads, but knowing these weren’t right, I avoided them and searched for the ostrich ferns.

After filling a Ziploc full,  it was into the kitchen. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, fiddleheads should be washed then boiled for at least 10 minutes to kill off bacteria and soften the tiny leaves for consumption. I also had a few Twitter followers suggest steaming and flavoring them with vinegar.

I ended up boiling ours for about 10 minutes and first tried them without any seasoning. I found the taste very similar to spinach but not very strong. I think I was expecting something more leafy tasting like how one might imagine grass to taste.

We ultimately decided to season our batch with butter and a little salt and pepper and we were both pleasantly surprised. I don’t know if they will make it into our regular dinner side dish rotation, but I’m certainly glad I gave them a shot.

Afterall, how can you beat eating a Maine favorite you’ve harvested along the beautiful Union River?