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Stalking the Wild Fiddlehead

May 23, 2013

Day 1: Bernie flew off at 6 AM into the rising sun

The rest of the time
I am alone, and I mean alone, in the woods. No one around at all. Each morning I have walked down to the hatchery tanks to watch the salmon fry grow for a while.

After watching 17 episodes (at least) of Law and Order in all its various Iterations, it came to me that I probably should attempt to do something with my life. OK, Bobby Goren and Alex Eames, Mike Logan and Lennie Briscoe - that’s it! We’re done!

Several people sent suggestions and recipes for cooking fiddlehead ferns... Inspired, I put on my Euell Gibbons hat and shoes and set off to Stalk the Wild Fern.1 Bag and scissors in hand, I went down to the stream at the bottom of our hill. I was able to snip about 40 fidddleheads and carried them back up to the camper to cook and eat.

Placing them in the refrigerator, I began an internet search for just the right recipe.  This was going to require careful study... To carrot, or not to carrot?
In order to study the information in depth, I decided to run out and get a pizza for this night. In the morning, I would begin to prepare and photograph the process. 

The rest of the evening, I perused recipes...

I decided on Martha’s recipe

Her recipe was similar to the one in The New Yorker a friend sent me. By this time I was sure I wanted to taste the actually curly green tidbit itself. I already knew I liked cheese, garlic, curry, pasta, bacon, onion and wine reductions. Plain is how I would fix it..

The next morning it occurred to me that not all ferns are the same. Maybe, like mushrooms, some of them are deadly!

Perhaps it would be a good idea to research fern types. What did I find out? Oh dear:

"... Throughout the world, several types of fiddleheads are eaten, though most contain toxic compounds. The most commonly eaten and most esteemed fiddlehead is that of the ostrich fern... all are at least mildly toxic and can cause nausea, dizziness, and headache, so it’s probably best to avoid them. The safest    way to eat fiddleheads is to stick to ostrich ferns and to eat them in small quantities."2

The ostrich fern has a dent down the middle of the stem.

Slight panic set in. What were my precious ferns anyway? I pulled them out of the refrigerator... Gasp! Hirsute ferns! In just 12 hours, white hair was growing all over them! The were appalling! Scary looking. No chance in hell was I going eat them.

What to do? What to do?

I remembered a grizzled old man that I had seen selling fiddleheads beside the road north of the entrance to the park. Should I drive the 50 mile round trip in the hopes he would still be there? Yes. I was committed now.

Found him.

Gray and bearded, he sold me a two pound bag of the little green things. As it turned out, that was more than enough to last a lifetime.

The simple recipe I had chosen called for washing and rubbing off the brown papery stuff that clings to the stalks... This takes quite a while as one must be attentive to each little fiddlehead.

The next step is to place them in boiling sea-salted water for 5-7 minutes then rinse and pat dry before sautéing them in butter or olive oil for another 5 to 7 minutes. I used about 2T butter and 2T olive oil. In the end, I added two cloves of garlic to the pan as I cooked. Alone, I ate a bowl at room temperature with a squeeze of lemon juice. Good - great texture and pleasing green taste. (Definitely not broccoli-esque)

Final recipe for Fiddlehead Ferns

If it were not for the almost two hours of cleaning, picking, peeling, boiling and sautéing I would say, “All hail the fiddlehead fern.”

1  Euell Gibbons, Stalking the Wild Asparagus
Fine Gardening

That story sure made me happy that I have a ready supply of Asparagas just outside my back door :>)

Just back from a week at Marco Island with good friends. Bob & Sharon Worsham, Bucky & Harriet Ward, Don and Joan Mowbray, Bob and Lois Gawler.

Lois was Lindgren at BCC, and Jack & Jean Bache. Jack has made millions and Worsham has done very well too. I send you some photos of folks you might recognise.


Acadia National Park is an astounding place! It will almost make you forget the West, whence you have just returned. Sequestration is a bitch. I wish I could blame someone, but that would be an exercise in futility.

As far as the fiddle ferns are concerned, your bravery exceeded your common sense, I would say. Calli and I want you alive!!!


Beautiful and amazing - Peg, Bernie and that beautiful hairy 4 legged boy of yours!! This came on the perfect day!!!! A most wonderful Birthday Gift! I wish I were with you 3! Beautiful, fantastic life of beloved friends! Keep these coming to me! Love you more!

Samantha & the Gang!

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