Do you like fiddleheads? I sure do. Fiddleheads are the curled, edible shoots of the ostrich fern. Or, as Wikipedia notes: the furled fronds of a young fern. (Say that five times fast.) They are harvested when they are just a few inches off the ground. I love finding them in the grocery store each spring – just as I have forgotten all about them, poof! There they are again. It’s like finding the first batch of Ganong Chicken Bones or Robertson’s Ribbon Candy on the shelves at Christmastime.

Now, you shouldn’t eat these little babies raw. They can kill you or something. Okay, I’m not sure about the killing thing, but I guess you run the risk of spending a lot of time in the bathroom. Thus, you should cook them well. I guess they aren’t completely sure why these suckers can make you sick, but it does happen on occasion. Don’t let that deter you though – boiling them up in a nice pot of water will make ’em safe to eat.

When I bring my fiddleheads home, I trim their stems and remove any brown husky bits or scales as well. (See that there picture below? That’s the before. Long stems, woody bits and all. Up above? Those are the cooked and seasoned fiddleheads. I ate them immediately after taking that picture.) I wash my fiddleheads in a cold bowl of water, changing the water several times to make sure they are good and clean. Lots of rinsing, lots of looking terribly busy in the kitchen. Then, I boil them in a pot of water for 15 minutes. You should boil them this way even if you plan to sauté or fry them, or incorporate them into some other sort of dish. (Or run the risk of death and/or stomach cramps and/or bathroom “difficulties.”)

Once cooked, I always eat them the same way: a generous coating of butter, some fresh lemon juice and a little pepper. Oh, and since they aren’t a favourite of 2.0’s: alone, and with my fingers.



Disclaimer: if you kill yourselves eating ferns you found in yer yard or “out back,” it ain’t my fault. Use yer heads, people!



  1. maudiemaudie on May 13, 2011 at 3:11 pm

    Never heard of ’em but we have about 3 thousand baby ferns around the edges of our garden at the moment. Not sure I’d be keen on eating them, but should I ever see any in the supermarket I’ll think about it. Only if you promise I won’t die though, I’ve got things to do with my life yet.

    • movita on May 13, 2011 at 3:16 pm

      I can’t tell you how many times I’ve eyed the ferns in our garden… I’ve never worked up the courage to try ’em! Somehow, if they are in the grocery store, I believe them to be safe. And sure, people have died eating stuff from the grocery store, but… well… I dunno. I do likes me my fiddleheads though!

  2. Mickey_Halifax on May 13, 2011 at 5:06 pm

    At first when I saw this…I thought “hmmmm, what else does she have growing back there?” I thought I was going to have to make a midnight run into your yard under the cover of night…sigh – I guess I’ll just have to go to the grocery store now 🙁

    • movita on May 13, 2011 at 8:39 pm

      We could leave you some chips if you like… spread ’em around the yard for ya? Give it a think…

  3. emmalina73 on May 13, 2011 at 5:43 pm

    This is perfect timing, apparently there are a bunch of these in our woods. Our neighbour said his kids (now adults) used to pick them and sell them to the local store and make themselves a good bit of pocket money! If I get the chance I’m going to have a quick look on the weekend, if I’m not floating away what with all the rain they are predicting!

    Nom, nom…nom.

    PS Stephen is still, after many months, raving about your bean recipe. He just loves those beans!

    • movita on May 13, 2011 at 8:42 pm

      Beans! I haven’t thought about that recipe in a while… I might have to make some soon. Stephen is obviously a very bright man – and I don’t just mean his pasty legs.

      If it’s as rainy there as it will continue to be here on the weekend, you might want to plan your fiddlehead search for a market. Not as exciting as picking them yourself, but you’re more likely to find treats with icing at the market than in the woods. Seems like a fair compromise if you ask me…

      • emmalina73 on May 17, 2011 at 10:11 pm

        While I’m all for nature and her bounty I really do prefer the idea of swanning around a farmer’s market and eating yummy treats.  And icing….mmmm…I’m afraid nature just can’t compete with that….

  4. Rosie Beaucoup on May 14, 2011 at 10:38 am

    As a gardener and, as a nurse in a former life, I caution you all not to go running out and snipping off the shoots of every fern you see! Confine yourselves to the fiddlehead greens found on the grocers’ produce shelves. Movita is not to be held responsible for random fern slashing and dining!!

  5. movita on May 14, 2011 at 4:58 pm

    Good point, Rosie. If y’all kill yourselves eating crap from nature, it ain’t my problem and/or fault.

  6. sherrieg on May 15, 2011 at 8:26 pm

    Yum, yum, yum! I first had fiddleheads in NB at my in-law’s and fell in love. Apparently there is another type of fern that can be mistaken for them at this end of the province; a guest on Maritime Noon advised against foraging for them down here for that reason. And since I think we’re on the same page re: Chicken Bones, I have to tell you that they are at Lawton’s (and presumably grocery stores, too) year round now. I’m not sure what to think of that. Aside from ‘yum’, of course. 🙂

  7. movita beaucoup on September 13, 2015 at 11:36 am

    Comments are now closed on this post as it was published in May 2011. Thanks for stopping by!