Tuesday, April 25, 2006


It’s hard to describe fiddleheads without using the word “cute.” Every time I see these little green ferns rolled up in tight little spirals, I think of our cat Brandy curled up in her chair. They feel both green and cozy at the same time, which is just the way nature intended spring to feel.

Eating these miniature spirals is great fun because you get a little crunch from the stem and tenderness from the leafy part. Although they look unlike any other vegetable you might pick up in the store, you cook them the same way as asparagus, green beans, or any other green vegetable.
  1. Start by snapping the ends of the stems. They get brown very quickly after being snapped, so do this shortly before cooking your fiddleheads.
  2. Put fiddleheads in a large bowl with cold water and rub gently with your hands. This will separate the dried up brown leaves. Scoop fiddleheads out with a slotted spoon.
  3. Bring a pot of salted water to a boil and prepare a bowl with ice water.
  4. Add fiddleheads and a squirt of lemon juice to boiling water and cook for 2-3 minutes (just until fiddleheads lose the grassy taste, but still remain crunchy). This is called blanching.
  5. Using a slotted spoon, remove fiddleheads to a bowl of ice-water and let them cool completely, about 2 minutes.
  6. Drain fiddleheads and dry on paper towels.
You can also steam fiddleheads for 5 minutes instead of blanching.

At this point, you can add them to soups and salads, or sauté them in a pan with butter and garlic for an awesome side dish. If you are willing to plan ahead, you can marinade them in some lemon vinaigrette for a few hours or overnight. This makes them taste almost pickled.

Today, my little fiddleheads ended up in a bowl with tuna, cranberry beans, celery, cilantro, shallots, arugula, and anchovy vinaigrette.


Alanna Kellogg said...

I stumbled on these a year ago - lovely and yes, very cute! In Canada I think you can find them frozen, too, at least that's what a Canadian cousin says ...

Anonymous said...

Yay, I love fiddleheads - they taste to me like a cross between artichokes and asparagus, and always make me feel spring has finally arrived.

Kalyn Denny said...

I've always wanted to taste them, but I've never seen Fiddleheads for sale anywhere around here. Sigh.

Anonymous said...

I love fiddleheads -- New Englanders are so lucky to have them so available!
I happened to just come across this article in the NYTimes about them, if you haven't seen it already

Anonymous said...

Mmmm, I love fiddleheads. They haven't quite hit the farmer's markets around here yet, though. Soon!

Dianka said...

I've never seen these, they look great! Right up my alley!


Anonymous said...

I bought some today ;-) Cannot wait to try!

FooDcrazEE said...

back here in Malaysia - we normally stir fried them with chilli paste and prawn paste. The Thai even make a salad out of it - chopped lemongrass, kaffir limeleaves, garlic, sliced shallot, lime juice, chilli, dessicated coconut, sugar. Make a dressing and then add the blanched fiddlehead. Sprinkle with dessicated coconut and some crushed peanuts.

Helen said...

Hi foodcrazee,

Your salad with coconut and lime leaves sounds fantastic! I'll have to try that next time.


Helen said...

Hi Nina,

What a great article in NY Times. I got so caught up at work that I didn't even have time to read it until now. I have to agree with the author that all these wild spring "weeds" are more fun conceptually than tastewise. Fiddleheads are definitely not in the same category as asparagus, radishes, and my other favorite veggies, but they do provide a much needed diversion to the spring table.

Hope you get some in California soon, but since you get local veggies almost year round, they might not seem nearly as facinating as they do in New England.