Along the Grapevine




I had the opportunity to visit a fellow backyard forager’s property where I was able to collect another regional delicacy – fiddleheads. These can be found for only about a two-week period in the spring, and grow only in the wild. However, if you’re lucky, you can find them in some markets and grocery stores at this time of year in areas where they grow.

There are many types of fiddleheads, but the ones harvested in the north and east of North America are the ostrich ferns. Be sure only to harvest a type of fern that is edible, as there are many which are toxic. The ostrich fiddleheads have to be cooked well or they can have nasty consequences. I know from experience and now am very careful to cook them well. I have found different advice on just how long well-cooked is, and some recommend boiling in two lots of water to get rid of any bitterness. I followed the advice of steaming them for about ten minutes and found the flavour to be only a little stronger than and similar to asparagus with no ill effects.

Once you have identified them for certain, picking them is quite easy, although it involves a lot of stooping and bending. You only need to snap it off – no digging or cutting. It is important to note that each plant produces seven fronds, so you should be careful to pluck no more than three from each plant in order for that plant to survive.

Before the fern appears, they can be identified (which is important so you don’t step on them) by what looks like a burnt piece of wood, about the size and shape of a large artichoke.






The first sign of growth are little copper-coloured nubs which is the skin covering the green fiddleheads. Eventually the green appears and grows out of this black stump and when large enough is ready to be picked. It doesn’t take long to fill a bag with them.



To prepare, you have to remove all of the copper coloured skin. I spread them on a tray, took them outside and tossed them a little and most of it blew away (luckily there was enough breeze blowing to help me in this). The rest I did by hand.


I then soaked them in salted water with lemon juice to get rid of any lingering microbes.

I steamed them for ten minutes. After that they are ready to prepare as you like. The most popular method is to fry them in butter and/or oil, garlic and salt with a little lemon. You can also use any asparagus recipe


I decided to fry some in a pakora batter, which is simply chick pea flour mixed with a little salt and chili powder to taste and enough water to make it the consistency you want. Mine was like a thick pancake batter, but if you make it thinner the coating won’t be so doughy. Just dip the fiddlehead in the batter and fry until it is crisp and golden. Serve it with a chutney or tamarind sauce, or even ketchup.



<div align=”center”><a href=”” title=”Fiddleheads on Punk Domestics”><img src=”” width=”200″ height=”200″ alt=”Fiddleheads on Punk Domestics”></a></div>

Author: Hilda

I am a backyard forager who likes to share recipes using the wild edibles of our area.

11 thoughts on “Fiddleheads

  1. Your fiddleheads look so tasty, Hilda! That was quite the bounty you gathered there. 🙂


  2. I’ve never seen these before. Their shape is amazing! 🙂


  3. Hilda, have we talked about fiddleheads? Talk about great minds thinking alike! Ever since I first ate them (probably on vacation somewhere in the northwest) I absolutely loved them. I love little vegetables with lots of crevices and texture, like brussels sprouts and . . . . fiddleheads. I have been pestering our LA Times food writer, David Karp (also known as the “fruit detective” — he writes in painstaking detail about the history and uses and types of obscure and common fruits) about where to find fiddleheads if anywhere in Los Angeles. He told me that the “mushroom man” at the Santa Monica Wednesday Farmer’s Market brings them sometimes but the restaurants usually gobble them up and he only brings them “informally.” Literally the next day at my birthday dinner, my husband ordered trout and it came with fiddlehead ferns! I died! I’m so happy you posted about them because I didn’t know they grew as pictured . . . I thought they’d be in bushes in dense forests or stuck to mossy trees! This post makes me want to come over to your house right now!!!!! I hope you enjoy your delicious pakoras and whatever else you decide to do with your fiddleheads!


  4. Thanks so much. Next time you are in the north country, by all means stop by. We do seem to have a lot in common – at least when it comes to food.


  5. I’ve always wanted to try fiddleheads but was too nervous about it. I’m learning so much from you, Hilda!


  6. This is the second time I’ve heard about “fiddleheads” this week! The first was via an email through my local, independent grocer that they now had them in stock. And now…here you are educating on them and sharing a recipe idea! It must be a sign…off to purchase fiddleheads, as no time to forage today. Thanks, Hilda. 🙂


  7. Hope you enjoy them. Just be sure to cook them long enough!


  8. Another great post. I have picked fiddleheads for years and have just steamed and put a little balsamic vinegar on them. Although I must admit we have used them in many recipes that call for a delicious veggie. But I never thought to deep fry them!
    Thanks for the great recipe.


  9. Hilda, I would like to link to your post for a piece I am writing on fiddleheads for Foodlander. May I include a link to your recipe and mention your blog? Funny they would ask me to write on fiddleheads when I can’t get my hands on any here and thus can’t make an original recipe!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


  10. Certainly you may. I am honoured that you would consider my blog, and delighted that you did.


  11. Pingback: Fiddleheads – Dehydrated | Along the Grapevine

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