A safe and easy way to prepare fiddleheads.

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How to Cook Fiddleheads

Three Methods:

Fiddleheads are the new fronds of the ostrich fern (Matteuccia struthiopteris), and get their colloquial name because their coiled form looks like the head of a fiddle. These springtime delicacies have a taste reminiscent of asparagus, freeze well, and are easy to prepare, but they are not without their risks. We'll show you a couple ways to cook these up, and how to avoid their risks. Read on!


  • Fiddleheads
  • Water
  • Cooking oil or butter if sautéing
  • Butter, salt to taste


  1. Clean the fiddleheads.Rinse thoroughly, then place in a bowl of cold water. Remove any bits of the brown papery coverings, and rinse again until they look green and clean with no leftover papery bits.
    • Caution. Do not eat fiddleheads raw like other vegetables! They must be cooked to be edible—there have been a number of reports of food-borne illness associated with eating raw or undercooked fiddleheads.
  2. Cook one of the methods outlined below.
  3. Serve with butter.If eating hot, season lightly and remember—the sooner you eat them, the better their flavor! Here are some other serving suggestions:
    • Add a splash of vinegar to freshly-cooked fiddleheads.
    • Serve as appetizers, on crostini or toast.
    • Chill, and serve in a salad with onion and vinegar dressing.
    • Almost any recipe calling for asparagus will work well with fiddleheads.


  1. Place fiddleheads in a steamer basket.Using a steamer will help preserve the delicate flavors of the fiddlehead ferns.
    • Add water to the saucepan or steamer, but don't submerge the ferns.
  2. Bring the water to a boil.Steam the fiddleheads for 10-12 minutes, until tender.


  1. Boil water.Fill a saucepan with enough water to fully cover the fiddleheads.
  2. Add a pinch of salt.When the water has come to a full boil, add salt.
  3. Stir in fiddleheads.Return the water to a full boil, then cook for 15 minutes.


  1. Heat oil.In a skillet, heat a neutral oil such as grapeseed or vegetable oil over medium-high heat until shimmering. You can use butter as well, but lower the heat to medium—butter has a much lower smoking point.
  2. Add prepared fiddleheads.These ferns should be steamed or boiled before adding them. Sautéing alone is not sufficient to prevent illness.
  3. Sauté until they start to brown.Add salt to taste, and thinly sliced garlic or shallots if you like. Continue cooking for about another minute.
  4. Serve immediately, and enjoy!

Community Q&A

  • Question
    Is this specifically from a fiddlehead fern, or is it any fern?
    wikiHow Contributor
    Community Answer
    Only the fiddleheads of the ostrich fern are edible; others will cause you quite a bit of gastric distress.
  • Question
    How do I prepare them for the freezer?
    wikiHow Contributor
    Community Answer
    Wash them thoroughly, steam them for about five minutes, and then try to dry them as much as possible (to prevent ice crystals forming). Place them into plastic bags or another storage container and remove as much air as possible. I think for the fiddleheads your best bet would be to use the large zipper-type bags so that you can roll them up to remove the air.
  • Question
    If I already sauteed the fiddleheads, can I steam them after the fact?
    wikiHow Contributor
    Community Answer
    No, that would overcook them. Choose one method only. Steaming them will bring out the best and freshest flavor.
  • Question
    Where do fiddleheads come from?
    Community Answer
    Fiddleheads are wild edibles collected in woodlands during a short period of time in early spring, before leaves emerge on trees. They are organic, are not cultivated, and generally support local individual gatherers in your area.
Unanswered Questions
  • Would parmesan cheese be ok on them with the buttet
  • Could me salad spinner remove enough moisture for freezing?
  • What is a good way to preserve fiddlehead ferns?
  • Can I use baking soda and let them sit a while before rinsing them again and then cooking them?
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Note that the video suggests slightly less cooking time than the Canadian Food Inspection Agency suggests.

Quick Summary

If you want to eat fiddleheads, you must cook them to avoid food-borne illness. Rinse the fiddleheads thoroughly under cold water, and remove any of the brown papery coverings. To steam the fiddleheads, place them in a steamer basket and add water to the saucepan or steamer. Bring the water to a boil and steam the fiddleheads for 10-12 minutes, or until they are tender.

Did this summary help you?
  • The fern fronds should be tightly curled. If the fronds are old and more unfurled, do not eat it. Please read the Health Canada's Food Safety Advisory on fiddleheads .
  • 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.
  • Correctly identify a fiddlehead. While there are many varieties of fern, the ostrich fern is the only one that is edible and safe to eat. Other varieties of fern may look similar, but can be poisonous or unpalatable.
  • Fiddleheads available in grocery stores are safe to eat, but care should be taken if you are foraging for these greens on your own.


  • Be sure your fiddleheads come from a reputable source. Grocery stores usually are completely safe, but ask your green grocer about the source to be cautious. Fiddleheads are often "cottage industries" in local regions, so if you are buying from a local, make sure that individual has a good reputation. Fiddleheads gathered wild close to roadsides can have pollutants in them.
  • Always be sure you positively identify wild vegetation before eating.
  • Fiddleheads must be thoroughly cooked before eating. At best, they taste terrible if cooked incorrectly. There is a toxin, known as shikimic acid in fiddleheads, that you do not want to ingest. Sickness from fiddleheads can include diarrhea, nausea, vomiting and abdominal cramps.
  • Fiddleheads are often harvested in early spring, and only three out of the seven fiddleheads of a plant should be picked, or else the plant will die.

Things You'll Need

  • Bowl for washing
  • Saucepan or frying pan
  • Spatula

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Views: 363,289

Lynn McIntyre

May 17, 2019

"Picture-guided and easy to read. The article gave three easy ways to prepare fiddleheads and quickly answered myquestion on how to cook them. Thank you."

Lori Hasemann

Jun 6, 2019

"I had no idea you couldn't eat them raw or under-cooked. I'm glad I read this, because I regularly eat rawvegetables, and would have tried them raw."

Vicky Bowers-Gielau

Sep 17, 2019

"This was instructional in that I have never gathered fresh fiddlehead. I have always used frozen. Thank you forthe information."

Lynn McIntyre

May 27, 2019

"Answered my question quickly on how to cook fiddleheads. Easy-to-read, and the pictures provided guidance. Thankyou."

Sandra F.

Jul 1, 2019

"Was nervous on how to cook these, as I know undercooked can make you sick. This alleviated my worries. Thanks."

Jeanne Klein

Jun 2, 2019

"Was unsure what to do with them, but know they are a delicacy. Helpful for the options."
Rated this article:


May 16, 2019

"very good how-to on cooking them, and especially sourcing tips - those were excellent!"

Joni Vacey Hutchison

May 18, 2019

"The details about poisoning and only picking three of the seven fronds were good tips."

Mutahharah R.

Video: Fiddlehead Ferns 101 - Everything You Need to Know

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Date: 07.12.2018, 00:01 / Views: 63465