Sweet Fiddlehead Pickles and Post-Flooding Foraging

Things are starting to grow. Finally the weather is warm enough to allow the green to begin to show.  It will be interesting to see how the green grows this year given the events of last summer.  Hurricane Irene rained down upon Vermont and flooding changed the landscape.

Importantly, it changed the riverbeds. Just out my window is a great example of how the creek swelled large enough to swallow all the trees.  What used to be a tree lined creek is now very open and has been manipulated further by men trying to save their lands.

Along the edges of creeks and rivers grow some of the earliest and tastiest wild foods.  Foraging and canning for the year start ramps and fiddleheads.

I did not pick many fiddleheads this year because after flooding from hurricane Irene, many of the former fiddle head grounds are covered in silt.  Other high volume foraging places were completely flooded with farm waste, road and house debris.  I just don’t feel comfortable collecting or eating from those areas.  That means few places were left to grow un-marred by flood damage.  Sadly, the ones that did survive everything else have been over foraged.

I began to forage in one spot where I saw hideous damage left by unscrupulous foragers. Entire plants had been cut. Every baby fern was gone.  Taller growth had been carelessly trampled and broken off.

Surprisingly, I even see collectors harvesting fiddlehead from the road silt and flood debris, gross.

Hopefully you will be a careful and thoughtful forager.  Pick baby ferns that have not yet unfurled or purchase from a reputable source. I know of no green fiddlehead that is poisonous, but a few are less desirable by some because they might give a tender tummy trouble.

Here is my latest favorite pickled fiddlehead recipe. The pickles are slightly sweet, not cloying, and the brine is light.  If you have never tried fiddleheads before, the taste is delicate like asparagus or green beans.

Sweet Pickled fiddleheads yield approx. 6 – ½ pint jars

  • 2-3lbs fiddleheads, cleaned and blanched.
  • 1c rice vinegar
  • 1c white vinegar
  • 1c water
  • 1c sugar
  • 1t salt
  • 1T black peppercorns
  • 1/2t dill seed
  • Garlic, 2-3 cloves per jar

Bring brine ingredients, including half of your garlic, to a boil in a med pot. Cover and simmer together for 5 minutes.

Clean and blanch the fiddleheads. Disperse the remaining garlic cloves among the jars and gently, but tightly, pack the prepared fiddleheads into sterilized jars.

Pour hot brine and seasoning over the fiddleheads leaving ½” headspace.  Add water as necessary to extend the brine.

Wipe the rims, and seal the jars. Store in the fridge or process 10 minutes in a boiling water canner.

Allow the jars to rest at least 2 weeks before serving.  Turn the jars, agitating a couple of times a week.