I can remember when fiddleheads (the immature fronds of ostrich fern, Pteretis pensylvanica) were vastly more popular than they are today. That was before supermarkets carried such a wide variety of fresh vegetables. I believe that today, most people are so used to buying food that they look at foraged foods as quaint--perhaps unnecessary.
Also, the socio-economic makeup of Maine has changed dramatically. In past years, the average income was considerably less, and many people lived close to the land. Rural areas were truly rural, and things like fiddleheads, dandelions and other wild plants were eagerly sought after. Today, most folks don’t have time to poke around wet areas and streamsides, looking for potable vegetables.
I remember when you couldn’t go to town in May, but what someone would ask, “Did you get your fiddleheads yet?” Indeed, the person to pick that first mess of fiddleheads did much to enlarge his or her status in the community. It was assumed, and rightly so, that most everyone liked fiddleheads.
I still make those early-season trips, hoping beyond hope to find those first, small, tightly-packed ferns sticking up from the ground. And now, when I pick my first fiddleheads, there is nobody to tell about it. Nobody cares. But perhaps, just maybe, someone still cares. Maybe that someone is you.
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An avid writer and naturalist, Tom writes four regular columns and a multitude of features. He wrote a long running award winning column "Waldo County Outdoors" and a garden column for Courier Publications