Foraging for Fiddleheads

by evelynsaenz

Fiddleheads are the taste of spring and may be the first wild green you can harvest as winter melts away.

Fiddleheads Ferns grow on the edge of streams and river in shady spots. They are a coveted delicacy and fiddlehead patches are secretly guarded by foragers who strive to assure their supply year after year.

This year I was welcomed into the world of fiddleheading. Having never tasted let alone picked a fiddlehead before, I was in for an amazing springtime treat.

In this article I will talk about foraging for fiddleheads, how to identify the correct fern and then go on to ways to prepare fiddleheads. They are delicious but you do need to know how to properly cook them since improper cooking can cause you to feel quite ill.

Photo Credit: Fiddleheads
Used under creative commons

Picking Fiddleheads

How to pick fiddleheads

Should I take a knife to pick them I asked my mentor? Little did I know how much of a novice that made me out to be. My friend laughed. Fiddleheads snap off easily in your hand.

We spent the morning walking up and down along the banks of the river, stooped over, picking fiddleheads. Since my skin burns very easily, even with SPF 100, I was delighted to find that the best fiddlehead ferns are found in the shady spots.

After Hurricane Irene we were worried that the fiddlehead patch would have been devistated but were delighted to discover that they recovered quite well.

That first day we picked about 10 bags of baby ferns. They were popping up so quickly it seemed we could almost see them growing.

Fiddleheads are a Vermont Springtime Delicacy

Be sure to pick the heads of the Ostrich Fern
halved fiddlehead ferns
halved fiddlehead ferns
King Oyster Mushrooms and Fiddlehead Ferns
King Oyster Mushrooms and Fiddlehead ...


Head of the Ostrich Fern
Head of the Ostrich Fern
Head of the Ostrich Fern

Where can you find fiddleheads?

Gizmos Pickled Plus sells pickled fiddleheads picked in the wild and will ship anywhere.
Fiddleheads can only be found in the spring around mid May. During a two week period we picked 450 pounds of fern tops. Ferns grow in clumps with four to six fern frowns coming up out of each clump.
Fiddleheads are the beginning curls that first emerge out of the ground. You can pick them until the curl just snaps off in your hand. When the curl unfurls in your hand they are too mature. Leave that one there to grow into a fern. In fact, be sure to leave two or three in each clump so that the fern clump doesn't die. 
Each afternoon, we go back to the house to pickle the ferns. When we arrive at the house we need to wash off the brown outside, similar to onion peels. Some of them can be taken off with a good stiff breeze. Then we hit them with a strong spray of the hose. Finally we go through them by hand. All that brown stuff needs to come off to get rid of toxins
Finally the fiddleheads are packed into jars and processed. .You can purchase our pickled fiddleheads from Gizmos Pickled Plus. We do a case price that you can mix and match with our jams, jellies, pickles and relishes and we will ship it to you anywhere in the country.

Fiddlehead Cookbook

Recipes for cooking Fiddleheads
The Fiddlehead Cookbook: Recipes from Alaska's Most Celebrated Restaurant and Bakery

The Fiddlehead Restaurant and Bakery has bee a Juneau tradition since 1978, when its founded established a menu that celebrated Alaska's bounty of fresh, delicious ingredients a...

View on Amazon

Fiddlehead Ferns

Fiddlehead Ferns ready to Cook
Fiddlehead Ferns
Fiddlehead Ferns

Eat Only the Head of the Ostrich Fern

Fiddlehead Warnings

Ostrich Fern FiddleheadsIt is the head of the Ostrich Fern that is edible. Even though Ostrich Ferns too contain toxins, by getting rid of the brown papery covering and throughly cooking them, fiddleheads are delicious and safe to eat.

Be sure to remove the brown papery flakes on the outside of the fiddleheads before cooking. Start by blowing them off in the wind as you rub them. Then use high pressure water to remove more. Finally use your hands to carefully remove the rest.

Steam or boil your fiddleheads for 10 minutes before consuming. Raw fiddleheads can cause upset stomachs.

Warning: Other kinds of ferns may not kill you but you might wish you were dead.



Photo Credit: Ostrich Fern Fiddleheads by RPOP Used under creative commons

Fiddlehead Recipe

How to cook fiddleheads...

Be sure to boil or steam your fiddleheads before Fiddlehead Recipeyou eat them.

We like our fiddleheads sauted with garlic and olive oil. They are delightful added to pasta with Alfredo or Marinara Sauce. Any left over fiddleheads we like to add to our salads and quiches.

Pickled fiddleheads hang nicely off the rim a a martini glass making an interesting garnish for a springtime wedding.

Which is your favorite way to cook and eat fiddleheads?

Photo Credit: Fiddlehead Recipes by zoyachubby Used under creative commons

Updated: 06/21/2013, evelynsaenz
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Fiddlehead Comments

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DerdriuMarriner on 05/10/2023

Your last subheading, Fiddlehead Recipe, describes fiddleheads sautéed with garlic and olive oil and served in Alfredo- or Marinara-sauced pasta. You indicate that leftovers improve quiches and salads.

What else is put in a fiddlehead quiche or salad?

Fiddleheads look like they also might go well with plant burgers. What else would you consider stacking into a fiddleheaded plant burger?

Would any fiddlehead leftovers -- be they from pasta, quiche, salad, sautée or whatever -- be bagged or containered and frozen? How long would they cooperate with storing and serving another time?

frankbeswick on 05/08/2023

As a Briton I was unaware of fiddleheads, so I am delighted to learn of a new foragable plant. I don't envisage foraging for them in Britain, as I am disabled so I now don't forage much, but the information is good to know

evelynsaenz on 05/08/2023

Fiddleheads are in Season! You can purchase them at or at local farmer's markets.

AngelaJohnson on 08/16/2014

How interesting! My sister lives in East Tennessee so I'll have to look for them the next time I visit in the spring.

evelynsaenz on 06/22/2013

If you would like to try some pickled fiddleheads we offer free samples at Farmers Markets in Central Vermont. We also ship jars of pickled fiddleheads. See the link above to Gizmo's Pickled Plus.

Angela on 06/22/2013

I've yet to taste them but someday soon i may venture into the world of fiddleheads

EliasZanetti on 06/18/2013

Nice introduction to fiddleheads. Had no idea but it's good to know!

BrendaReeves on 06/18/2013

I would be afraid that I'd pick the wrong plant and poison myself. I'd order from a store, though. Thanks for introducing me to fiddleheads.

sheilamarie on 06/14/2013

One of the things I miss about Vermont. Nicely presented, Evelyn.

evelynsaenz on 06/13/2013

Fiddleheads taste a bit like asparagus.

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