This past weekend I got to return to upstate New York, a place I've called home on and off for a good part of my life. The Adirondacks and surrounding foot hills have long been part of my stomping grounds and it will always be a place that's close to my heart. It's beauty never ceases to amaze me. From catching trout in high up mountain streams that "can't possibly hold fish" to finding lakes that aren't on any maps, this place never stops leaving me in awe.
Upstate New York is also where a trapper and farmer named CJ Pastor was first introduced to me after culinary school. Meeting CJ was a pivotal point in my life. You see CJ took me under his wing and taught me where to look for mushrooms, how to identify them, what soil they like, and so on. I was instantly hooked. I have fond memories of walking through the woods with him and talking about life, farming, cooking (he was a pretty good cook too!) and shooting the proverbial shit. Back then I used to smoke cigarettes and we would chain smoke to keep the mosquitoes and biting flies away when we forgot our bug spray. Now a days I don't smoke, but I'm pretty sure the amount of deet I dump on my body every summer is just about equal to smoking. But hey, I HATE ticks!
It was CJ that first introduced me to the Ostrich fern, or more commonly called the "fiddlehead" in the culinary world. It's a large fern that grows about 3 feet high, but can get as tall as 6 in the right conditions. Typically you find them growing next to creeks, rivers, streams and swampy areas. It's easy to identify from other inedible ferns by looking at the stalk. If a fern stalk is completely round, not a fiddle head. If the stalk has a obvious "U" shape in it, chances are you found a fiddlehead. So why do they call them fiddlehead? well, legend has it that if you play the fiddle next to the fern at midnight during a full moon.....nothing will happen ;) However if you find them in early spring, just as they start to sprout the fern is wrapped up so tight, it looks just like the head of a, you guessed it, fiddle.
My childhood fishing hole had hundreds of these plants growing around it. So while I was home I made a trip to the old fishing hole (and also down memory lane) and dug up a few of these guys and transplanted them on my property to become party of Permaculture at Heritage Foraging. With any luck the ferns that were a small part of my childhood will become a very big part of my adulthood.