Recipe: How to Eat Fiddleheads

from the University of Maine Cooperative Extension

Fiddleheads are the young coiled fronds of the ostrich fern (Matteuccia struthiopteris).  Ostrich fern fiddleheads, which are about an inch in diameter, can be identified by the brown papery scale-like covering on the uncoiled fern, as well as the smooth fern stem, and the deep ”U”-shaped groove on the inside of the fern stem. 

Place fiddleheads in a colander and thoroughly rinse them off with clean water. Put the rinsed fiddlehead in a bowl of clean water to remove the brown papery coverings.

Bring lightly salted water in a pot to a rolling boil and add washed fiddleheads. The water should fully cover fiddleheads when added. Bring the water back to a steady boil and hold for 15 minutes.

Bring a small amount of water to a boil preferably in steam apparatus. Add washed clean fiddleheads and steam for 10-12 minutes.

Serve at once with melted butter or vinegar. The sooner they are eaten, the more delicate their flavor. They may be served, like asparagus, on toast. Cooked, chilled fiddleheads can be also served as a salad with an onion and vinegar dressing.

Due to the short season for fiddleheads, some people like to preserve them for later use. To freeze fiddleheads make sure to follow these steps:

Clean them.

Blanch a small amount of fiddleheads at a time for two minutes in 4-6 cups of water.  The blanch time starts when the water comes to a rolling boil after adding the fiddleheads.

Cool in a ice bath immediately.

Dry thoroughly and place into resealable plastic bags. 

Place container in freezer.

To use frozen fiddleheads thaw in refrigerator or cold water.

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