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a group of green broccoli

Fiddleheads:  An outstanding example of Maine’s historical continuity, authenticity, and distinctively local culinary traditions! As I say on my food tours, this is opportunity knocking, fresh food in a small city with a short supply chain is as good as it gets, give them a try. Early spring is fiddlehead season in Maine. They are edible, unfurled new spring fronds of the Ostrich Fern, yet another example of characteristically New England culinary traditions. Different varieties are eaten all over the world, but the local practice, like many New England foodways, likely owe their origins to indigenous practices. Unlike most places in the U.S. and Canada, one can purchase fiddleheads in local markets in Maine, foraged locally. They are collected in the woods and fields while still tightly curled, and are only available fresh for a couple weeks a year. Other times of the year, one must settle for pickled fiddleheads from a jar, which are produced locally as well. They can be frozen too.

a green plant in a garden

Ostrich fern (with Sweet Woodruff and Solomon’s Seal) Too late to eat!

Take the opportunity to try distinctive local foods that connect us to the land and local history and culture! Fiddleheads have a crunchy texture and taste mossy and earthy, like the smell of the early spring woods. Wash thoroughly and cut the brown bases and residual husks first. I like to prepare them as a side dish like string beans (or haricots verts), sautéed in garlic and butter with mushrooms, if they are locally foraged morels, which appear around the same time, all the much better. Like string beans, they turn bright green when sautéed and ready to eat.

a group of metal pan

Fiddlehead pizza.

a large pepperoni pizza

A note of caution: some fern species are toxic, so like mushroom foraging, know exactly what you are doing,…and only eat them cooked, they may harbor bacteria that can cause mild food poisoning.

And, available to book now, our Portland Pizza Lovers Lunch, which is very family friendly!  Mangia!

Written by Ray Sapirstein, Portland walking guide and local culinary and history expert.

Tom Conigliaro standing in front of a store



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