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On the trail of the goose and the fern

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THE text for this morning's parable comes from the restaurant report in our Free Press, the county giveaway, page 22, which offers this valuable information about dining out: ``Each establishment has its own uniqueness though some are more unique than others.'' This, Betty and Dick and I decided, is rather like our annual May-time venture by canoe down the St. George River in search of the succulent fiddlehead. By no means a changing story -- I have been faithful with it here for at least 30 years -- each passage does have its unique moment. This time we saw a pair of Canada geese, and what is far more important -- they saw us!

I notice the fiddlehead fern has accumulated fame. Three decades ago when I first told of foraging for them, people wrote to ask what I was talking about. I was talking about the springtime shoots of the ostrich fern, which make a delightful green if taken in infancy. Growing in swamps and along streams, fiddleheads require some search and seizure, and going for them is definitely a part of our vernal rites. The ostrich fern has a fairly wide range in the Northeast but has long been pretty much a special delicacy in the Maritime Provinces and Maine. In the beginning, fiddleheads didn't travel, but were for those who went, fetched, and boiled close to the table.

But now fiddleheads are harvested for the markets and can be had frozen or tinned from processors. I noticed this newspaper lately had an article on fiddle-heads, offering several recipes and suggesting wider distribution than heretofore.

However, there is still that uniqueness about a dish of fiddleheads served the same day they are picked, given the help of a dollop of butter and a dash of vinegar. The fiddlehead gets its name because the tip of the emerging shoot is tightly curled to suggest the scroll on the neck of a violin. Once again Dick and Betty and I got our usual supply and what our two households didn't eat that night, we tucked into the freezers for future attention.


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