Food & Entertaining - In Season

Fabulous fiddleheads

Savour this wild gem’s short season with harvesting tips and cooking tricks


Cooking them up
While fiddleheads are an inspiring ingredient, resist the temptation to eat them raw. This is one vegetable that must be cooked since raw fiddleheads can cause indigestion. 

Fiddleheads are best eaten the day they are picked or purchased. If you can’t use them immediately, seal them in an airtight bag and refrigerate. They should keep for several days.

Whether you steam, sauté or boil, wash the fiddleheads thoroughly to remove all the paper-thin, brown chaff and dirt. Unlike green beans or asparagus, which are best al dente, fiddleheads need just a bit more cooking that most greens. This helps remove some of the bitterness and brings out the nutty, earthy flavour.

Steam or sauté as you would broccoli or chopped asparagus, but if you boil, be sure to use plenty of lightly salted boiling water—a good rule of thumb is three cups of water to  one cup of fiddleheads. (Note: Don’t be alarmed if the water turns black. This is normal.)

Culinary uses
Fiddleheads burst from the ground just as asparagus and morel mushrooms appear, so it’s natural to see this trio on menus. The spiral ferns, straight stalks and crinkly morels not only taste wonderful together, they provide a striking visual contrast.

With or without other seasonal offerings, fiddleheads pair well with cheese, vinegars, eggs and cream sauces. Not sure where to start? Here are some suggestions:
  • Serve them hot: Butter, Hollandaise sauce, or just olive oil and balsamic vinegar complement piping hot fiddleheads for a notable side dish.
  • Serve them cold: To jazz up a salad, drizzled chilled, cooked fiddleheads with your favourite vinaigrette, then top with a sharp cheese or crumbled feta.
  • Stir things up: Create an Asian-style stir-fry with garlic, ginger, soy, hot peppers and sesame oil. Round, pink shrimp make a lovely visual contrast to the bright green spirals.
  • Soup things up: Substitute fiddleheads in your favourite cream of asparagus bisque or add them whole to a rustic bean and vegetable soup.

Preserving fiddleheads
Can’t eat all your harvest? Fiddleheads make excellent pickled preserves. Or, blanch them and pop them into the freezer in airtight bags. Frozen fiddleheads keep for up to a year.

Here are some other recipe ideas from our sister site, CanadianLiving.com:

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