How to Cook Fiddleheads

How to Cook Fiddleheads

Fiddleheads are the new fronds of the ostrich fern (Matteuccia struthiopteris), and get their colloquial name because their coiled form looks like the head of a fiddle. These springtime delicacies have a taste reminiscent of asparagus, freeze well, and are easy to prepare, but they are not without their risks. We'll show you a couple ways to cook these up, and how to avoid their risks.

Cleaning Fiddleheads:

Clean the fiddleheads. Rinse thoroughly, then place in a bowl of cold water. Remove any bits of the brown papery coverings, and rinse again until they look green and clean with no leftover papery bits.

Caution. Do not eat fiddleheads raw like other vegetables! They must be cooked to be edible-there have been a number of reports of food-borne illness associated with eating raw or undercooked fiddleheads.

Method One: Steaming

Place fiddleheads in a steamer basket. Using a steamer will help preserve the delicate flavors of the fiddlehead ferns.

Add water to the saucepan or steamer, but don't submerge the ferns.

Bring the water to a boil. Steam the fiddleheads for 10-12 minutes, until tender.

Method Two: Boiling

Boil water. Fill a saucepan with enough water to fully cover the fiddleheads.

Add a pinch of salt. When the water has come to a full boil, add salt.

Stir in fiddleheads. Return the water to a full boil, then cook for 15 minutes.

Method Three: Sautéing

Heat oil. In a skillet, heat an oil over medium-high heat until shimmering.

Add prepared fiddleheads. These ferns should be steamed or boiled before adding them. Sautéing alone is not sufficient to prevent illness.

Sauté until they start to brown. Add salt to taste, and thinly sliced garlic or shallots if you like. Continue cooking for about another minute.


Fiddleheads available in grocery stores are safe to eat, but care should be taken if you are foraging for these greens on your own.

The fern fronds should be tightly curled. If the fronds are old and more unfurled, do not eat it. Please read the Health Canada's Food Safety Advisory on fiddleheads.

Ostrich fern fiddleheads, which are about an inch in diameter, can be identified by the brown papery scale-like covering on the uncoiled fern, as well as the smooth fern stem, and the deep U-shaped groove on the inside of the fern stem.

Correctly identify a fiddlehead. While there are many varieties of fern, the ostrich fern is the only one that is edible and safe to eat. Other varieties of fern may look similar, but can be poisonous or unpalatable.

Edited by Luv_sarah, Flickety, VermontGal, Maluniu and 16 others
From: WikiHow
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