Every year about mid-April, my husband Ben and I, as well as my brother John, start keeping our eyes on fiddlehead progress. We each check on our favorite fiddleheading spots, noting progress, and call eachother with updates, like “Nothing yet”, or “just starting to poke through”, or (if we waited a little too long) “we better get over there quick because it’s gonna get picked out this weekend!”
In case you aren’t familiar with fiddleheads, they’re the small, unfurled heads of newly-emerged Ostrich ferns, that poke up from the soil along many rivers and streams here in Maine around late April or early May. Fiddleheads certainly grow in many northerly regions, but they’re particularly abundant and have long been enjoyed as springtime delicacy here in Maine. At mid-April we’re pushing the season for sure, but we’ve got to at least start looking. If we stop paying attention, they might just come and go without us even noticing–after all, it doesn’t take long for a tiny, furled head to grow into a beautiful, young fern, once it emerges from the ground into the warmth and sunlight of early spring. I suppose that this is one of the things that I find so appealing and enjoyable about fiddleheads and fiddleheading season–the fleeing nature of it all. It requires me–in case I’d forgotten, as I do sometimes–to slow down, pay attention, really look the natural world around me, and get my hands down in the dirt again.