How to Harvest and Cook Fiddlehead Ferns

Fiddlehead ferns are a telltale sign that spring is coming to a close. Always appearing around the month of May, these delicious yet fleeting vegetables are the apples of many a forager’s eye. Even if you’re not a forager yourself, you might want to buy these delicious, asparagus-like ferns from the store if you spot them. They’re delicious, with a bright, lively taste and a versatile texture. Here’s what you need to know about these tricky little delicacies.

What are Fiddlehead Ferns?

Most of the fiddleheads we associate with eating are ostrich ferns. This is important to note, because there are other varieties that may look similar, but are actually known to be toxic. They are the fronds of a young fern that has just begun to sprout. We pick them in the spring before they’ve had the chance to mature and unfurl into what we usually recognize as a fern. As a result, they look, well, kind of like a curled-up green bean.

Where and When Do They Grow?

Fiddlehead ferns grow best on the Eastern side of the country, usually running from New England all the way up through Eastern Canada. They tend to sprout up in wet, marshy areas, so they’re kind of off the beaten path (this is one of the reasons they’re so expensive to buy in stores). They grow in clumps of two to three all the way up to the hundreds, and only hang around for a couple of weeks in mid-Spring.

Forage or Buy?

If you live in an area where fiddlehead ferns grow and you’re an experienced forager, these little guys would be fun items to look for. However, it’s important to be careful about this. Similar plant species may look very similar to the fiddlehead, but are in fact toxic. Fearless eating recommends the book “A Field Guide to Edible Wild Plants” if you’re interested in foraging for fiddleheads. You could also go out on the hunt with a credible guide who could show you the ropes.

If you decide to pick these up at the grocery store, time is of the essence! Blink and you might miss them. Be prepared that they’re also expensive … roughly $14-19 per pound.

How to Cook Fiddlehead Ferns

The Kitchn advises that you shouldn’t eat these ferns raw. They’ve been known to cause illness when eaten raw in large quantities. However, that shouldn’t be a problem, because cooking these guys is easy! You can cook them any way you’d cook asparagus: sauteed, steamed, boiled, etc.

My personal favorite idea is to blanch and then saute them. Bring your water to a roaring boil, add your fiddleheads, and allow the water to return to a boil. Then let the boil continue for about four minutes before placing the fiddleheads in a bowl of ice water. After they’ve cooled a bit, sautee them with some butter, coconut oil or olive oil. Delish!

73 comments

Siyus Copetallus
Siyus Copetallus2 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

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Jim Ven
Jim Ven2 years ago

thanks for the article.

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Elisabeth H.
Elisabeth H2 years ago

interesting, TY

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Beryl Ludwig
Beryl L2 years ago

interesting

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Jax L.

Great Article!

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Jax L.

Thank you!

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Jeanne Rogers
Jeanne Rogers3 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

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Angela B.
Angela B3 years ago

I saw them in my local grocery store the other day so I know they are out. My neighbours used to spend one day a year foraging for them, starting in their own yard.

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Randy Q.
Past Member 3 years ago

Thanks!

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Ruth S.
Ruth S3 years ago

Thanks.

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