Chapter: Vegetable Recipes: Greens
Section: Fiddlehead Ferns
Recipe: 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.
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
Method Two: Boiling
Boil water. Fill a saucepan with enough water to fully cover the
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
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