Fiddling Around

April 12, 2008 at 5:16 pm 21 comments

Fiddleheads of the Ostrich Fern
I entered this photo in the Click! Au Naturel Event!

What’s your favorite mythological creature? Unicorns? The Loch Ness Monster?  The Yetti?  Lake Champlain’s Champ?  El Chupacabra?  Up until yesterday, I might have said the Fiddlehead, had I been asked.   Like all the previously named questionable characters, there are many pictures to prove their existence (heck, there’s even a picture on one of my sets of business cards), and yet, somehow, I’d never seen one for myself.  The curly heads rising up on slender necks from the forest floor resemble an other-worldly creature for sure.  And in the culinary world, fiddlehead ferns are almost unmatched in their elusive promises of gourmet delight, much like morels or truffles. 

Upclose of fiddlehead

Only a few varieties of ferns yield edible fiddleheads, and they are most often foraged from the wild. To add to the challenge, fiddleheads, which are tightly coiled shoots that are just itching to unfurl into fern fronds, only come into season for a few short days each spring.  Since both their arrival and their point of unfurling are entirely dependent on the temperatures, rain levels, and amount of sunny days each spring, it’s amazing to me that anyone ever finds them. 

Cooked fiddlehead

It’s even more amazing to me that I finally ran across them! 

Soaking fiddleheads

The Ostrich Fern is the only fern I’d trust, based off what I’ve read and heard, to eat the fiddleheads, and there just happen to be several in the woods around the gardens where I’m working now.  Before you go hunting for them yourself, be sure you can identify your ferns with certainty as the fiddleheads of some very similar looking ferns can cause food poisoning.  Don’t fret though if you aren’t a master fiddlehead finder.  There are fiddlehead harvesters who sell their finds at farmers markets and even online.  While fiddleheads are best eaten promptly after harvest, they can be refrigerated for a week or more. 

Rosemary and corn

There aren’t many recipes for fiddleheads out there, no doubt in part to their limited availability.  I’d been told they taste a little like asparagus and could be treated in much the same fashion so I decided to just fly by the seat of my pants when preparing them. There is one rule of thumb for cooking fiddleheads though and that is to cook them.  Raw fiddleheads, even of the Ostrich Fern variety, can also cause food poisoning. So be sure to boil your fiddleheads, if you’re lucky enough to get them.  Anyway, boiling aside, I thought that fiddleheads, if they did indeed behave like asparagus, would go nicely with some butter, garlic, rosemary and corn.  Frying them proved to be a fortuitous afterthought. 

Frying the fiddleheads

I really enjoyed this dish and wish fiddleheads weren’t so short in season (the ferns from which I got mine unfurled just two days after I harvested my three fiddleheads). Fortunately, this preparation of the corn would be delicious on its own, garlicky and sweet with a little salty bite.  So, if you don’t have fiddleheads, you can still have the corn.  And believe that fiddleheads do exist, if only because I have pictures to prove it! 

Corn and Fiddlehead 

A Straight from the Farm Original

3 fiddlehead ferns
½ C. frozen corn kernels, thawed
1 clove garlic, finely minced
1 t. minced rosemary
2 T. extra virgin olive oil
2 T. butter
Salt and pepper

Trim off the discolored ends of the fiddlehead stems. Place fiddleheads in a bowl full of cool water and swish gently, allowing them to soak while you mince the garlic and rosemary.

Bring a small pot of water up to a boil. Add the fiddleheads and boil gently for five minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and rinse in a bowl of cool water, changing the water two or three times. This rinsing process helps remove the tannins that might cause the fiddleheads to be bitter.

In a medium skillet, heat the oil and butter together until butter melts. Add the rosemary and garlic. When the contents of the skillet start to bubble and get noisy, add the fiddleheads and fry until browned, about two minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside. Now add the thawed corn to the skillet and toss several times, adding a generous pinch of salt and pepper. When corn is hot and starting to brown ever so slightly, remove from heat.

To serve, mound corn on a dish and place fried fiddleheads on top. Sprinkle with another small pinch of salt and serve immediately while still hot.

(serves 1)

Fiddlehead Ferns and Corn

Entry filed under: Purely Vegetables, Recipes. Tags: , , , , .

The Real Deal Au Naturel

21 Comments Add your own

  • 1. chriesi  |  April 13, 2008 at 6:21 am


  • 2. eggsonsunday  |  April 13, 2008 at 8:11 am

    Those look delicious! I’ve seen fiddleheads a few times at the farmer’s market, but was never quite sure how I would cook them. This is a great idea — when they arrive in the Ithaca farmer’s market this year, I’ll try them! Thanks! –Amy

  • 3. Michelle  |  April 13, 2008 at 8:53 am

    We have Ostrich Ferns growing on our property and after the 4 days of rain we’ve had I bet they’re coming up now. Gorgeous photos!!

  • 4. DocChuck  |  April 13, 2008 at 11:01 am

    When we lived on our farm in Upstate New York, fiddlehead fern was one of the delights of early spring. The other “delights” (besides that the snow was finally melting) were Maple syrup and wild leeks.

    Surprisingly, you can Google up some pretty good recipes for using the delicacies. The University of Maine ag department has some very interesting ideas.

    Also, some stores in the Upstate NY, Vermont, and Maine area sell pickled fiddlehead ferns . . . delightful taste.

    Great post, by the way.

  • 5. Jai  |  April 13, 2008 at 7:40 pm

    i have only heard of curled up “ferns to be” from my mom. apparently when they were kids, they used to take some wild ones and smash them on to their arm for an instant “washable” tattoo, as they had some kind of vegetable ink. when we went to the olympic national park i’ll was looking out for some but never found any. great pics – didnt know that they were edible. wonderful.

  • 6. Emily Adamson  |  April 14, 2008 at 1:04 pm

    I’ve had fiddleheads in restaurants before, but cooked them myself for the first time last week. I blanched them and then just topped with a little browned butter and Parmesan and served along side halibut. I will give them credit for the “wow” factor, they’re beautiful and unique! But I wasn’t overly impressed with the flavor, it wasn’t bad, just nothing to write home about. In the future, I’ll do something similar to what you did and just put a few on top of a dish for presentation. Thanks for the recipe!

  • 7. matt wright  |  April 15, 2008 at 7:02 pm

    I just love fiddleheads. I did a post on them a couple back now on my blog – mixed up with some other great spring veg.

    Yours look fantastic, great job.

  • 8. Pann  |  April 19, 2008 at 12:04 am

    Mmmmm…. one of my favorites. Great photo!

  • 9. Jadeane  |  April 25, 2008 at 6:28 am

    One of our favorite springtime delicacies.. fiddleheads! Lovely photo’s!

  • 10. Jennie  |  April 25, 2008 at 7:30 pm

    Thanks, everyone, for the great comments and compliments. I went hunting again today for more fiddleheads, but alas, the season has passed by already! I hope some of you found them near you! 🙂

  • 11. sophie c  |  April 25, 2008 at 11:55 pm

    aww…these are really cute! It looks like it should have two little eyes and a friendly smile. I’ve never heard of them before, but it does seem like they should be a character featured in a fairytale :D.

  • 12. Kim  |  May 1, 2008 at 6:58 am

    Great photos! I lived in Chester Springs area for quite a few years. My father-in-law use to get fiddleheads when they went to their home in Vermont. I didn’t know they could be found in Pa.

  • 13. Linda  |  May 14, 2008 at 2:32 pm

    Why can’t I print out the recipe? I’ve tried copy & print and it comes out all mixed up. There isn’t a ‘print’ to click on.
    Recipe seems delicious and I’d love to try it. 😦

  • 14. Jennie  |  May 14, 2008 at 4:49 pm

    Linda – I’m sorry you’re having trouble printing it… I’m not able to add a “print” link on this blog since I’d have to buy the CSS rights to it, and with no ads on the site to help with costs, I haven’t yet justified that expense. Usually if you just copy the text (no pictures) for the recipe and paste it into a Word (microsoft office) document, it comes out fine and then prints easily. I hope that helps! And I hope you try the recipe! 🙂

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  • 16. Jessica  |  May 29, 2009 at 11:53 am

    Imagine if I said its fiddlehead season in NewBrunswick Canada right now… and my father keeps trying to force me to accept pounds and pounds of them. I can only eat so many!
    I’m going to try this recipie but add a million more fiddles 🙂

    If you are in our area just make sure you pick the fiddleheds with a deep groove runny up their stem. If they have any red lines on them or a round stem they are no good. I’ve only ever come across two kinds of baby ferns …

    Also, always make sure you leave one or two fiddlheads on each patch so that they will grow again the next year. 🙂

    • 17. Jennie  |  May 29, 2009 at 6:51 pm

      Wow, Jessica! I’m so jealous! And very good advice about leaving a few behind to grow so there will be more fiddleheads next year! Happy eating!!! 🙂

  • 18. jean  |  May 31, 2009 at 3:15 pm

    they are awesome ,use to pick them in new brunswick,,,,in nova scotia now i buy them @ the market,, can hardly wait till they come out in spring,,then i eat them almost every day for few weeks “just salt pepper and butter then ready to eat.. i looked around our cottage as its a bit swampy in some places but couldn’t find any….grrrrrrr lol

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  • 21. nick  |  September 12, 2013 at 9:10 am

    Great post

    I live in New Brunswick, Canada and the Maliseet and Mi’kmaq tribes have been harvesting these since time immemorial as they are the first fresh vegetables to grow. As soon as the ice and snow melts and there are a few sunny hot days, out they come! I pick them every spring. Anyone interested in obtaining some, I am sure we can work something out. You can also freeze them. One of the members of the Maliseet Nation has a cookbook out, his name is Melvin Nash.



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