May hikes can bring renewal—and dinner

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Fiddlehead ferns

“On such a time as goes before the leaf

when all the woods stand in a mist of green.

And nothing perfect.”

A Year in the Field, 1896,
—John Burroughs

Ah, May—the month of renewal. The spring season advances and every new dawn feels like a re-awakening of life. Wildflowers are part of the rhythm of the seasons, each species with its own bloom time. Some emerge in March, others linger into November, brightening the landscape for a few days or weeks. There will be much to see in the coming weeks particularly as some early spring wildflowers linger and the later ones emerge.

Most wildflowers have several monikers—stinking Benjamin is a startling one. The flowers have a foul smell and thus attract green flies in search of rotting meat in which to lay their eggs. Unpleasant as this sounds, the flies help pollinate this lovely spring wildflower. I prefer the names wake-Robin or trinity Lily for a nicer mental image. Also known as red trillium, they bloom from April to June and are a member of the lily family. 

Early spring walks offer up all kinds of opportunities for discovery, including those of the culinary kind. One example is when I come across a stand of unfurled ostrich fern croziers, also known as fiddleheads. These are a highly prized delicacy that taste a bit like asparagus. They go well with all kinds of dishes, from pasta to rice and can be served with basil pesto or soy sauce.

Fiddlehead Fern Stir Fry

3 cups fresh fiddlehead ferns, ends trimmed

3 tablespoons unfiltered extra-virgin olive oil

1 clove garlic, minced

½ teaspoon sea salt

½ teaspoon black pepper

1 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the fiddleheads in the boiling water until barely tender, 7 to 10 minutes. Drain.

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Stir in prepared fiddlehead ferns, garlic, salt, and pepper. Cook and stir until the ferns are lightly browned and tender, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and sprinkle with lemon juice. Enjoy this simple stir fry over farro, rice or pasta.