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Sunday, April 12, 2009

Ditch Food

It is spring here in the Maine woods. A time to don the rubber boots and go slogging through the wet woods in search of "ditch food". After a long winter nothing tastes better than the fiddleheads that will soon populate the river banks. Fiddleheads are immature ostrich ferns and somewhat of a Maine delicacy.

In a survival situation where foraging may be a must, fiddleheads would be the first spring "vegetable" a person here would have access to. They are easy to gather with a sharp knife but bring a burlap bag or sack as you will want to get as many as you can carry.

Look for fiddle heads that are firm, green, and tightly rolled at the tops. To harvest, simply cut the plant with a sharp knife leaving a good amount of stem.
To clean the fiddleheads there are several methods. Some people toss them up and down in the wind, a bag full at a time, on a clean bed sheet. This seperates the dried and brown leaf parts that cling to the stalks. It is also easy to just dunk them in cold water up and down until the brown and dried bits float to the top of the water. Or just leave them in a bucket outside under a slow running hose until the water overflows and looks clear.

Cooking is easy as well. To cook fiddleheads just add them to a pot of boiling salted water for ten minutes, or steam for 20 minutes. Here in Maine, people like fiddleheads so much they gather plenty and "put some up" for later. To freeze just parboil in boiling water for 2 minutes, remove from water, and quickly pat dry with a paper towel then package in freezer bags. They keep for several months.

Of course they taste the best when cooked fresh dressed with a little salt and butter. I personally like to add a little apple cider vinegar to mine for a little zip. Gathering fiddleheads is a good way to add to your larder and the price couldnt be better, they are FREE and with some minimal work can get you through until the first veggies start to sprout in your garden. With a little care, you can enjoy them for months to come.

With a delicate flavor much like asparagus they do not deserve the handle of "ditch food" but they are found in ditches and along streams and rivers. To learn more about my favorite "ditch food" as well as safe ways to store and some tasty recipes for pickled fiddleheads (you do have plenty of canning jars on hand right??) check out this link which includes a picture of fiddleheads for those who may not have had the pleasure of meeting them face to face!

It might be a good idea to print off the info on fiddleheads and keep it with any gardening books you may have in your survival library.


  1. good post MainePatriot, welcome aboard. You should put a link to this post on the public forum too under the foraging topic

  2. done....thank you for the welcome.

  3. Welcome Maine Patriot. What a great way to start things off with a good foraging post. Never had fiddle heads....well not yet anyway. I'll be on the lood out though. Thanks for a great post.

  4. I have never heard of this, but what an informative post! I went to the link and was amazed! Thanks for joining the prepper circuit. I am certain I will learn much from you!

  5. A Big Canadian Welcome to you Maine Patriot - although we do tend to think of Maine as our fifth Atlantic Canadian Province!!!! and great timing with the info on fiddleheads - we will be going out this weekend to gather up some tasty new fiddleheads - they are just starting to pop their little heads up here!!! have you been out foraging for them already?

  6. They are just coming up here as well. I am hoping the snow between me and the riverbank melts before they are up all the way and that my rubber boots havent miraculously sprung a leak over the winter!
    Thanks for the welcome.


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