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How to Cook Fiddlehead Ferns

In Season: Fiddlehead Ferns

If there's any time to prioritize hitting up the farmers market, it's during Spring. Blink and you might miss some of the season's most prized — and fleeting — produce, like fiddleheads, the unfurled sprouts of the plant known as the ostrich fern. Harvesting season for these wild greens, which are native to the northeastern United States, only lasts a few short weeks in May, so don't miss out! A few important things to know about cooking with them, when you read more.

When cooked, these greens possess the same bright color, crisp bite, and tender interior as asparagus, and have a grassy flavor that works well in sautés and pastas. When shopping for shoots, look for tight coils with short stems. Before using, wash the ferns, removing any browned or damaged leaves or chaff with a good shake through running water. Store clean fiddleheads in the fridge; they'll keep for anywhere from a week to 10 days.

Don't serve these raw, as they naturally contain substances that have been known to cause gastric disruption. Instead, blanch them in salted boiling water for two to three minutes and drain them of their dark water before further cooking them. Here, a few ways to take advantage of fiddlehead ferns:

  • After blanching, sauté with butter and aromatics for a simple preparation.
  • Serve alongside eggs and hollandaise for a new twist on eggs florentine.
  • Toss with red pepper flakes and truffle oil in an angel hair pasta.
  • When Spring's in full swing, make a fiddlehead and morel risotto.
  • Freeze them in ziplock bags, or transform them into pickled ferns to enjoy in Winter.

Have you ever eaten fiddlehead ferns? How were they prepared?

Source: Flickr User GlennFleishman

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jelibeann jelibeann 5 years
Being new to the New England area, this is the first season I ever heard of them. We went to dinner at a restaurant where they were the featured side dish and I was curious, so I ordered them. Unfortunately, the waiter did a terrible job of describing them to us - I fear he will keep other diners from trying them. The description here is perfect and we love them! Since that night, I've seen them featured on quite a few other menus and I'm hoping to pick up some to cook at home before they are gone for the season.
Vsugar Vsugar 5 years
I grew up in the woods of Maine, and my family harvests these every year when the season comes. Now that I live in NYC, I get SOOOO happy when I see them in the farmer's market!! I love to cook them up with pasta, risotto, polenta - one of my favorites is an artichoke heart risotto with sauteed fiddleheads. AMAZING. Then when the season is passed, we look forward to black trumpet mushroom season, which we ALSO harvest from the woods. It's a pretty great life :)
GummiBears GummiBears 5 years
I guess the Midwest is just out of luck on this. Unless they come canned *lol*.
EvieJ EvieJ 5 years
I have NEVER heard of nor seen these before! Wow. Must hit up my farmer's market to see what's on offer here that's new to me!
Susannah-Chen Susannah-Chen 5 years
lovesitc, they're most common in the Northeast, but I also know that on the West Coast you can find them at some Whole Foods and at specialty stores that sell other foraged items like mushrooms, etc.
lovesitc1 lovesitc1 5 years
Great post! Thanks for the info. Now if only could find the darn fiddleheads at my farmer's market!!!!
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