FARMINGTON — Hundreds of people came to the University of Maine at Farmington on Saturday to check out vendors, hear talks on fermentation, listen to music and enjoy locally grown and crafted food and goods at the Fiddlehead Festival.

Now in its eighth year, the festival was at a new location on the UMF campus, and people said that stands to increase the event’s popularity in coming years.

Ray Martin, right, and Jasper Oh play on the lawn while watching bands at the Fiddlehead Festival in Farmington on Saturday.

“This is such a marvelous occurrence every year,” said Bob Weingarten of Vienna, who has attended nearly every Fiddlehead Festival.

“For people who go to Common Ground, it’s like a preview, and it’s more and more like Common Ground every year,”he said, referring to the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association fair each fall in Unity.

About 30 vendors were on hand offering kettle corn, baked goods, crafts and other small-batch crafted goods. Eight bands played music one after the other on the lawn on a mild, overcast day.

The festival is organized by a group of students from the Sustainable Campus Coalition, a club at UMF, and several members of the community.

“We’re trying to support local farmers and increase local agriculture — it uses less oil, less carbon produced, because it stays local,” said Luke Kellet, a junior at UMF majoring in biology and one of the festival’s student organizers.

While the late start to spring meant not many fiddleheads were on hand at the festival, one talk, a traditional staple at the festival, focused on all things fiddleheads.

Portia Hardy, a student at the University of Maine at Farmington, runs the kids’ table at the Fiddlehead Festival in Farmington on Saturday.

“It takes considerable temperature and considerable time to get up into the center of that fiddlehead to get to the point where you are killing the microbes,” said Dave Fuller, a non-timber forest products specialist for the University of Maine Cooperative Extension, on the need to steam or boil fiddleheads rather than sauteing them. The Extension has two publications online with facts on fiddleheads, one on identifying and sustainably foraging from the wild and another on safe cooking.

The other five talks looked at different aspects of fermentation, including one talk focusing on koji, a fungus used to make Japanese fermented preparations such as soy sauce and miso. Nicholas Repenning of Go-En Fermented Foods shared his labor-intensive practice of cultivating koji. Fermentation is not only a way of preserving food but also is healthy because it bring microorganisms into the digestive system and makes food more digestible, according to presenters.

 


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