Our Guide to Fiddleheads: What are Fiddlehead Ferns?

Fiddlehead ferns. Blink and you’ll miss them, as once the ferns unfurl their green fronds it’s game over I’m afraid.

Capture that moment when the coiled green fern tops are still tightly wound like a shepherds crook and you’ve got yourself a culinary delight.

What are Fiddlehead Ferns?

Fiddlehead ferns (or fiddleheads) are the emerging new shoots of several types of edible fern that are harvested as a vegetable. These varieties include:

  • Ostrich fern
  • Bracken
  • Western sword fern
  • Lady fern
  • Cinnamon fern
  • Royal fern

Unfurled fiddlehead ferns

They’re in season for just a few short weeks every year, usually in April and May. They are sometimes cultivated but traditionally this is a foraged product collected by expert foragers who know what they’re looking for and will only harvest sustainably – not killing the plant in the process.

Eating Fiddlehead Ferns

Nutritionally, fiddleheads are a great source of antioxidants, omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, as well as being high in dietary fibre and iron.

For cooking, our advice is to keep things super simple and enjoy the subtle taste of fiddleheads – a taste that’s generally accepted as a cross between asparagus and young spinach with a hint of nuttiness.

Fiddlehead ferns served on a plate

Steaming or blanching fiddleheads is a good choice, but sautéeing is even better. Pair with a Hollandaise sauce or a good mayonnaise. They can also be pickled after blanching or dipped into a light batter and fried till crisp.

Fiddleheads are widely eaten across the world from as far back as the Middle Ages. You can find them appearing in Asian, Indian, Russian, Nepalese and North American cuisines.

Getting Your Hands on Fiddlehead Ferns

If you would like to source some for your menu, get in touch with our team in March to see what the supply is expected to be like. Outside of the season we can supply you would a quality frozen product too.

Mark Flint

Mark has almost a decade of experience in the marketing world, with most of those spent working in the food industry. After driving digital marketing at one of the industry's largest food suppliers, Mark now supports First Choice with all their website content.