Friday, June 01, 2007

My Friend the Fiddlehead

Well, when you're from Maine, you know well that Spring is the time of the fiddleheads. I am not, however, from Maine. I am what Mainers call "from Away". I had never even heard of a fiddlehead before I met Rob and his French-Canadian family from Maine. I probably would have took a long look at it and said, "You want me to EAT that??". But, people from The County (Aroostoock, that is), forage for their favorite spring greens in their own secret special spots in April and May. You may see people along a river bank, grocery bag in hand, hoping as they set out, for a good day of picking.

As we headed to upstate Maine for the holiday weekend, I readied myself for the adventure. I had already planned with Rob's mom to accompany her on a trip out to see if we could get some fiddleheads. Saturday morning, we got up, got our plastic bags and donned our grubby sneakers. We drove out to her spot (Mainers guard these locations like their crown jewels), and started looking. We immediately found some, she pointed out what to look for, which ones had grown too much and so on and we started picking. It was amazing! I felt like a kid on Halloween, seeing one clump of fiddleheads and running over to it, picking excitedly. We worked our way to the bank of the Aroostook River and saw a whole slew of perfect picking. Quiet settled over us and we bent, quickly snapping the heads off the stem, steadily filling our bags. One hour and 15 minutes later, our bags were filled to the brim, our backs were stiff and achey and I had been feasted on by the bugs. But we had a huge crop to bring home! A trophy from my first fiddlehead expedition! I felt proud as we lugged our loot from the woods, headed home, our hands black with dirt. We got home and had to clean them, which I learned was a very tedious job. fiddleheads are covered in a thin brown skin, much like an onion, that you have to get off before washing. Then you wash... and wash... and wash... and wash again.

I am home now. I came back bearing two big bags with me. Yesterday I spent a good chunk of the afternoon blanching, cooling, packing and labeling my precious delicacies. I have a good amount in the freezer for later in the year and some more in the fridge for this week. I don't dare admit to anyone that they are not my favorite, though, lol. They kind of remind me of asparagus or spinach. I'll eat it, but I'm not DYING for some fiddleheads right now. Hell, if you put some cheese on it, I'm good. If you put some cheese on anything, I'm good. The whole thing was worth it, every minute. I learned a lot, and I got to experience something that a lot of people do not. fiddlehead Season in Maine.