Edible fiddlehead ferns offer the taste of the forest. Deeply green and vegetal, they are prized for their delicate flavor and crunchy texture.
Some say they taste a bit like asparagus, broccoli, spinach, or green beans, but it’s hard to pinpoint the exact taste of such a special little plant.
Packed with nutrition as well as flavor, fiddlehead ferns are only available for a brief moment in early spring. That’s why they are so prized by chefs and food lovers.
Cooking fiddlehead ferns correctly is important. It is best to boil, steam or blanch fiddleheads before sautéing them, or using them in other preparations. Never eat them raw or undercooked.
Be sure to read our cooking tips before you begin.
Just the facts
- Wild, foraged fiddlehead ferns (Matteuccia struthiopteris)
- Seasonally available
- Product of North America
- 4 lb case
- Keep refrigerated
- For best taste, store in the refrigerator and use within 3-5 days of receipt
The edible fiddlehead fern is one of the early signs of spring. As a fern grows, each frond unrolls, growing upward, but in the earliest stages, it remains curled in a spiral shape, close to the ground, about an inch to two inches high.
In the Eastern United States, the ostrich fern can be found in profusion in wet forest areas. In Western states, the early curled fronds of the lady fern are often eaten, though they are bitterer than the ostrich fiddleheads.
But they are only around for a very brief time, before the ferns open and transform into luxuriant 4-foot-tall plants.
As with all foraged foods, much depends on the weather; temperature, sunlight and moisture all play their part in creating the optimum conditions for growth. Our experienced foragers are conscientious about how they harvest fiddlehead ferns, preserving the plant so that we can enjoy them again next season.
Since they are such a seasonal item, and they are not cultivated but only foraged in the wild, fiddlehead ferns are much loved among the food cognoscenti.
Clean fiddleheads by rinsing in a colander, then soaking in cold water and draining again. This will remove the brown papery skin and any dirt from the forest. If there is any stem extending from the coil, cut that off before cooking.
But they must be cooked properly before they are enjoyed. The Center for Disease Control has investigated several food-borne illness cases with fiddleheads, and recommends eating them fully cooked as a result.
It is best to blanch, boil or steam fiddleheads before sautéing, or cooking in other preparations
Once you have done that, you chill and serve on a salad with a vinegar dressing, or toss with rice or pasta. Sauté until tender crisp, adding salt and pepper as desired. Fiddleheads are also quite nice in tempura; again, be sure to pre-cook before breading them. And never eat them raw.
If properly washed and stored in a Ziploc bag, fiddleheads can be stored for as long as a week in the refrigerator. Fiddleheads are well-suited to freezing and pickling, which preserves the taste of spring all year.
Learn more in our article on cooking fiddlehead ferns.