Fiddlehead fern

Other Names: Crosier, ostrich fern.

General Description: Fiddlehead ferns are new-growth fronds, usually of the ostrich fern (Matteuccia struthiopteris). The name “fiddlehead” refers to any unfurled fern, not to a particular variety, because of their resemblance to the scroll of a violin (or fiddle) head. In the U.S., Maine and Vermont are the main sources of this seasonal wild food. Fiddleheads taste like asparagus combined with artichoke. Note that fiddlehead ferns should be consumed very young and in limited quantities, because of risks that they are carcinogenic. They must be cooked before eating to remove bitterness and minimize gastric problems.

Season: The fiddlehead fern season lasts about 2 weeks in any locale, starting in early April in the South through late July in Canada.

Purchase: Choose fiddleheads that are bright jade green, springy, and firm.

Avoid: Avoid fiddleheads with excessive fuzzy brown scales. Any scales should not be at all blackened.

Storage: Fiddleheads do not keep well. They should be wrapped in plastic, refrigerated, and eaten within 2 days.


  1. Trim the base of each fiddlehead, leaving only a small tail protruding beyond the curled section.
  2. Rub off any brown scales with your hands.
  3. Rinse well.
  4. Boil in salted water 3 to 5 minutes. If desired, add a pinch of baking soda to the cooking water to soften them and brighten their color.

Serving Suggestions: Toss with butter and chopped herbs. Cool and toss at the last minute with mild vinaigrette. Treat like asparagus: drizzle with lemon butter, cheese sauce, or hollandaise. Toss with soy sauce and sesame seeds.

Flavor Affinities: Asparagus, butter, lemon, morel mushrooms, new potatoes, salmon, watercress.

from Quirk Books: