Thursday, April 29, 2010

Fiddleheadin'

The best sign of spring in my neck of the woods is the harvesting of fiddleheads from the soft, muddy banks of rivers and streams where the high water has receded. They are picked in a two week time frame usually when "the leaves are as big as a mouse's ear". I grew up harvesting fiddleheads at my family's secret spot (for the real fiddleheaders will never reveal where they pick). This year, the Munchkin got to go. She was so thrilled. The woods this time of year are so youthful and mysterious....if you tilt your head to the ground and hold your breath you can almost hear the ferns unfurling towards the sky. 

We tromped in knee high, fast moving water to reach the island while the tide was out. I carried a quietly curious Munchkin in my arms until we reached the bank. We were greeted by my father and his airdale, Harvey, who helps with the identification of fiddlehead bundles (and the snuffling of all small rodent burrows in the vicinity). Munchkin was taught to find and pick the right variety (for there are several and some can be toxic) of fern and we filled our buckets, wandering around the island for an hour. We splashed, slopped, and slipped and finally made our way across the stream and back to our car. 
 To clean fiddleheads, you need to get the brown flaky "skin" off from the outside. To do that, my father reccomends taking a sheet and laying it on the lawn and pour the fiddleheads out of the bucket and onto the sheet. As they fall the brown casing blows away in the wind. You do this a couple of times. Then, you take them inside and pop them into a pan and fill it with cold water, the brown casing will float up to the top and you can skim it off. 
To cook fiddleheads, the simplest way is to boil them in a couple of inches of water for at least 10 minutes and then drain them, add salt and pepper and some cider vinegar. Delicious!! I have also been told that they make a great quiche....try following a recipe for asparagus quiche but omit the asparagus and add the fiddleheads. They actually taste quite a bit like asparagus, though there is a deeper woodsy, nutty flavor to the fiddlehead. 
After I came back from fiddleheadin', it occured to me that the shape of the fern is actually quite a lot like the curled cloth flowers I see in so many blogs recently. So, I tried my hand at fiddlehead fronds.

Here's how you do it;
For the longer ferns you need two types of fabric, the outer stem and the inner fern (now, let us all reach deep inside ourselves and access out inner fern....oooommm............). You essentially fold the outer edges (which have been trimmed to be tapered to make it easier to curl) of the stem in and fit the ferny piece in the middle. I distressed the outer edge of my inner fern with scissors, but don't worry, its saw its counselor and is feeling much better today. ;-)
Start spiraling the whole thing up and pin it for a second while you get some matching thread and an embroidery needle and stitch it together to hold it.
 Stitch the stem you have leftover as well if you are making a longer fiddlehead.
Make some more, if you'd like. Me? I liked. 
I laid them out on a piece of fabric fit to the inset of a picture frame and used a simple stitch to attach them on.
Isn't my stitching just *marvelous*. You should see my embroidery. No, wait. Don't. :-)
Then I painted the wooden frame a nice muddy, schloppy, riverbank brown.

I waited for it to dry, fitted the fiddlehead fabric onto the picture inset and VOILA. It's the height of Fiddlehead Fashion.

I linked to these wonderful parties!!
Check them out and be inspired!!



























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