Wildcrafting Fiddleheads

Cinnamon ferns are named for their spore fronds, which appear later in the year.

I have lived in New Hampshire for twenty years now, and have only gotten around to looking for fiddleheads this year. I’m not sure why – I certainly wildcraft enough with other things, both obvious and obscure. Partly I believe it is because they are only available for a few weeks, if not days, in early spring. And also because unlike most of my other wildcrafting, I have had no mentor. I use my field guides extensively, and have quite a collection of wild eldible guides at this point in my life, but for fiddleheads… well, the most charitable word I can use is vague. And I will not feed my family foods that are identified vaguely. Here on Stonycroft we have close to a dozen species of fern, and up until yesterday I didn’t think we had the edible kind. Glady and I took a walk, and I was taking pictures. Then I spotted what looked like the Ostrich Fern fiddleheads and decided I would bring a few up to the house for identification and inclusion into dinner.

Christmas Ferns remain green year-round

An unidentified fern, I will have to go back later to put a name to it.

The two types of fiddleheads I collected.

Back at the house, I delved into my books, and the internet for pictures and descriptions of edible fiddle heads, and realized that the little guys on the right in the above picture were correct. I had found them growing in a damp, shady area below an active spring. It was still cool enough there to have them tightly enough curled to harvest. Fiddleheads are edible, fern fronds are not. I discarded the wrong ones, and threw the handful of good ones, with a little cleaning off of the papery caul, into my pad thai for dinner. Along with some dandelion leaves.

Pork Pad Thai with rice noodles and fiddleheads.

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6 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. MaggieMaeFarm
    May 10, 2011 @ 08:01:53

    We’re very fond of fiddleheads here too… Bracken fern: Pteridium aquilinum, Ostrich fern: Matteuccia struthiopteris, Cinnamon fern or buckhorn fern: Osmunda cinnamomea, and Royal fern: Osmunda regalis all have edible fiddleheads and can be found here on the east coast!

    FYI, you should really boil fiddleheads twice, discarding the water between boilings. Then sautee (or however you are preparing.) The tannins in fiddleheads can make you pretty sick, boiling draws it out! It also helps reduce any possible bitterness.

    Happy wildcrafting – I love finding wild tasties from field and forest!

    Reply

    • sanborntonfarm
      May 11, 2011 @ 06:04:05

      I know about Bracken, and the Ostrich Fern is what I collected Monday, but I’d been told the Cinnamon Fern was not edible. I don’t normally wildcraft things that have to be boiled twice, I figure most of the nutritional value has gone out of it at that point. And thanks! I’ve been wildcrafting since I was a child, it feels good to get back out there!

      Reply

  2. Dave Freer
    May 11, 2011 @ 00:54:45

    And? Were they good? worth the effort? It’s so much harder to learn this stuff without a mentor, I agree. Mushrooms especially.

    Reply

    • sanborntonfarm
      May 11, 2011 @ 06:01:55

      They were good, we didn’t have many. I wil be keeping an eye out for more this summer so I can remember them in the spring. I’m very wary about mushrooms, most of the species I was mentored in collecting are west coast specialties. For a time as a child I accompanied a professional Wild Mushroom Hunter into the Pacific Rainforest.

      Reply

  3. Kathleen
    May 12, 2011 @ 13:05:52

    Cedar, I’m doing a happy dance!! 🙂 😀 After all the grief I got from you girls when you were growing up because I fed you ‘weeds’!!! It’s so good to see you feeding ‘weeds’ to your children, LOL! Good going, girl!

    Reply

    • sanborntonfarm
      May 12, 2011 @ 17:23:43

      Mom, I don’t remember giving you grief (although I’m sure I did). I know I’ve been hunting and eating wild foods for a long time, though! Mostly fruits and berries, of course, but the green stuff gets some attention too.

      Reply

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