Husband Ron, who wasn’t on this trip, had packed a small cooler of sandwiches and grapes for my journey. When my car got picked for a random agricultural check, I forgot the snack Ron had packed, got hauled up on the Grape Charge, and cooled my heels on the border bench with other suspicious types, all of whom were read the Immigration Riot Act.
I didn’t know grapes were a contraband substance, and also didn't know - not having packed the cooler myself - that Ron had so lovingly included them. When the border official asked “Did you pack your own bags?” I said “No.” This declaration, as any frequent traveler will know, is a red flag for customs officers. In my mind’s eye, I saw myself being strip-searched (not a pretty sight).
Instead, I escaped with a reprimand that my cross-border grape violation would stain my otherwise-spotless record - a pity, because grape stains are tough to eradicate. I also received a warning that I could have had a $300 fine, which - for the number of verboten grapes I was transporting - would have meant a penalty of roughly $30 a grape.
I greatly prefer cheaper thrills - such as picking fiddleheads in the cool, clean forests of the Time Zone and at the Latitude Where I Live. If you’ve never picked fiddleheads, you must! In regions with a late, cool Spring, fiddleheads are still tightly furled in the heart of the ferns from where they emerge. Pick no more than three per fern, lest you damage the plant, and pick in areas free of herbicides or pesticides. Wash each fiddlehead well, to prevent soil-borne diseases.
To read more about fiddleheads - including a couple of exotic ways to prepare them - see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fiddlehead_fern
Fiddleheads are a gourmet treat you’ll thoroughly enjoy! Half the fun is in the hunt, hiking into the woods to find them. Better hurry! The fiddlehead season is short!
Sufficient fiddleheads for a modest feast (see Note)
Apple cider vinegar (optional)
Salted or unsalted butter (no substitutes)
Freshly minced garlic
Freshly minced garlic
Wash fiddleheads thoroughly, trimming away any brown skin. Add a few drops of cider vinegar to the final soak, if desired. This helps preserve the fiddleheads’ bright green color. Boil or steam tender-crisp, topping with melted butter - or fry with garlic in a little butter, just until tender. Serve immediately.
Note: Ron and I are dedicated conservationists. Harvesting just 10 fiddleheads between us, I ate three and he had seven. Fiddle-dee-dee! We’ll worry about calories tomorrow!
|Ron carefully cuts a couple of tightly|
furled fiddleheads from each fern
|He places each into a bag. Fiddleheads sweat in plastic; |
a cloth bag or dish towel would have been preferable
|I fried these in salted butter on a small camp stove|
|Serenaded by Spring song birds, we relished the |
romance and tranquility of our modest outdoor meal