The Fascinating Fiddlehead Fern

Fiddlehead ferns
Photo: MarcQuebec/iStock/Thinkstock

Are you looking for a new vegetable to try this spring? Look no further, as the fiddlehead fern has recently been growing in mainstream popularity. You may have seen them popping up on menus in restaurants or your local pub this past year.

Now, I know what you’re thinking: “Wait, is this like the fern in my living room?” Technically, no — fiddleheads come from the shoots of ostrich ferns commonly found throughout eastern North American forests. They are bright green, tightly coiled fronds of young fern plants harvested throughout spring and sometimes through late summer.

Fiddleheads are similar in taste and texture to asparagus and broccoli with a bit of a unique nutty flavor.  Fiddlehead ferns pair well with mushrooms and are a great addition to soups, omelets, stir-fry and pasta dishes. These lovely green veggies are low-calorie and high in antioxidants as well as vitamins A and C.

Because consuming raw and undercooked fiddlehead ferns has been linked with cases of food poisoning, it’s important to cook them thoroughly by boiling for 15 minutes or steaming for 10 to 12 minutes.

Since fiddlehead season has just begun, check your farmers market and specialty grocery stores to see if they carry them, and take this time to look up some delicious recipes! And in the fall, if you can find frozen fiddleheads, add them to a homemade soup that you can refreeze and enjoy.

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EJ Otto
EJ Otto is a graduate of LaSalle University with a BSN in Nutrition, and an Ingredient Regulatory Technical Writer for Campbell's Soup Company.