Early May in Rangeley, Maine is mud season.
The north country doesn’t really have spring like the rest of us…the long, cold winter up there sort of just segues into a season of fog, chilly raw days, and mud. Lots of mud. It’s a bit early for fishing, much too cold to swim, all the locals get out of town to Florida for the month, and every restaurant in town closes down.
It’s real quiet.
On the drive in to town, in the last 50 miles or so we passed not one car on the state highway.
We did see 4 moose.
So, when my family went to Rangeley this week for a few days, our entertainment options were a bit limited. There is one thing to do this time of year that is an annual rite of passage.
Fiddleheads are the curled fronds of a just emerging fern, harvested as a vegetable. Nearly everyone in town has their secret fiddleheadin’ spot. They tend to grow in wet areas along the rivers.
My grandfather took me fiddleheading when I was younger. He was a quintessential old Maine guide, tough and woods savvy. He always knew of a good spot to find ‘em. He picked fiddleheads by the gallon and stored them for the year. He would eat them boiled, steamed, canned, fried, in pancakes and even pickled. Some studies show that fiddleheads eaten in large quantities can be toxic but he lived to be 99 years old.
So, this week we went off to that same spot by the Dead River my grandfather took me to go fiddleheading. It was still a bit early and the fiddleheads were on the small side. We were only able to scrounge a few. My two little charges were skeptical, or shall we say, not as familiar with the delights of fiddleheads. But that’s okay, they’ll get there...fiddleheads are a learned appreciation.
For those of you on my mailing list, you might have noticed the delicate, curled fronds on the back of every postcard. Now you know the story.