PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — After a long, windy winter, a wet spring has made for a great fiddlehead harvest in Aroostook County.
On the sunny Tuesday after Memorial Day, Sherry Sprague was set up on Main Street in Presque Isle selling fiddleheads as part of a team of family and friends who pick and market the foraged greens.
“I enjoy sitting out here and talking with everybody,” said Sprague, who’s been selling at this spot in front of the Here We Grow garden store for four years. “Sales have been good. I have my regulars.”
While the wet weather that’s figured prominently this May has delayed planting for farm fields, fiddlehead pickers have had a long season of foraging. The last week of May is looking like it will be the last week of picking though, Sprague said.
“We started earlier this year. Some are still coming but they’re going to go quick,” Sprague said. Their fiddleheads are sourced from the lands around the Aroostook River and its tributaries in Fort Fairfield and Presque Isle, she said.
“By the weekend, I think we’ll be done picking. On the last day we pick them, they usually sell.”
Fiddleheads, the uncoiled heads of young ostrich ferns, are often prepared by boiling or steaming and then pan-frying or baking. Northern Maine restaurants serve them on pizza, and the ferns also can be pickled or frozen for later use.
The University of Maine Cooperative Extension recommends boiling fiddleheads for two minutes before freezing, and then cooking them thoroughly when ready to use.
Sprague said her favorite way to eat fiddleheads is the classic preparation: “I like them with butter and vinegar.”