Fiddleheads and future pickles

It’s finally Spring here. The snow went off of things a few weeks ago, and if it weren’t for all that snow we had, it would be wicked dry right now. As it is, it’s just dry. We’re praying for rain to green up the pastures, and besides, no one likes a high warning of fire from the forest service.  But the daffodils are blooming in all the random spots that someone planted them ages ago, the trees have chartreuse baby leaves on them, and the fiddleheads are coming along!

As Katie’s previous post about our new little chick fluff-balls shows, not everything in our lives is either Sheep or Pickle. Yesterday, I showed our friend and new housemate, Andrew, what to look for and how to go about gathering fiddleheads. Last year when I went out to pick, the Service Berry trees  (also known as Shad Bush and by the Latin, Amalanchier) were already flowering in the woods. This year, it went from snow to 70 degrees in a more normal, steady way, so the Service Berry is just budded, and the first fiddleheads are coming along. One thing I find interesting is that we have an old flower bed here, on a south-east facing slope off our porch, and during the summer it is just one mass of Ostrich (fiddlehead) fern, but, despite the greater warmth and sunlight, it’s always the last place for the fiddleheads to break their crowns. Explain that. Nature is weird.

As a Public Service Announcement side-bar, please remember that there is a method of preparation for fiddleheads that is preferred by the University of Maine extension service. fiddleheads are high in tannins, and can wreak havoc on the digestion. It is best to boil them no less than 5 minutes, dump the brown water, pour cold water over them, and bring it back to a boil for another 5-10 minutes. After that, if you wish to saute them or whatnot, you can. Please also remember to be conservative in your harvest and careful where you place your feet when in a patch of fiddlehead crowns.

Late April and early May is also the beginning of the wild-and-crazy busy time for many of us. I am working at my mother’s greenhouse four days a week, and still doing all the prep for summer’s veggies. Soon I’ll be planting peas. Things are gearing up for my favorite job: preserving! This year I’ll be planting oodles of green and wax beans, pickling cucumbers, tomatoes, kale, and cauliflower, as well as a little broccoli, the aforementioned peas, some peppers, and a couple zucchini. I guess I was effective last year, because we still have a lot of corn, green beans, kale, and peas in the freezer, and we ate fewer dilly beans this winter. This year, you connoisseurs of pickles can look forward to all last year’s varieties, plus a few others, such as curried cauliflower, and probably some pickled beets.



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