Fiddleheads 101

It’s officially spring in Quebec when the first seasonal delicacy, fiddleheads, hit the Marketplace. Keep reading to learn how to make the most of these twisty guys while they’re around!

What are they?

Fiddleheads are the immature, curdled fronds (aka leaves) of the ostrich fern. They grow wild in the forest undergrowth and are foraged by hand. Because they’re not cultivated, they’re free of synthetic herbicides, fungicides, and pesticides. That being said, these mysterious spirals produce a natural toxin that’s eliminated through proper cooking (more on that in a bit).

Don’t try to pick them yourself!

There are two reasons you shouldn’t pick your own fiddleheads. First, while some are edible, others are poisonous (think mushrooms) - only an expert forager knows the difference. Second, there’s a sustainable technique to harvesting them that maintains continued growth, meaning they won’t grow back if you pick them wrong. So, leave it to the pros!

What do they taste like?

Fiddleheads have a unique taste that you can’t quite put your finger on. Some say their flavour’s a mix between asparagus and a rustic green bean. We find they taste like the smell of the forest’s undergrowth - earthy and green. Well…whichever it is, they’re a Lufavore fave for a reason!

Always cook them before eating!

Since fiddleheads contain a natural toxin that needs to be boiled away to avoid food poisoning, never eat them raw, and follow the cooking steps below to prepare them safely:

  1. To clean them, rinse your fiddleheads under cold running water and remove their papery husk and any earth with your fingers;
  2. To cook them, Health Canada recommends boiling them for 15 minutes or steaming them for 10 to 12 minutes. We prefer steaming to keep them crunchy; 
  3. Rinse them under cold running water or plunge them in a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking process;
  4. Enjoy them as is, or keep scrolling for our top recipes!

How to keep and store your fiddleheads.

Storing your fiddleheads in a bowl of water in the fridge can keep them fresh for about a month. Since these guys are only here for a short time, here’s how to store them so you can enjoy them all year!

  1. Clean your fiddleheads by rinsing them under cold running water and remove their papery husk and any earth with your fingers;
  2. Boil or steam them for two minutes;
  3. Rinse them under cold running water to stop the cooking process;
  4. Pack your blanched fiddleheads in an airtight container or freezer bag, and freeze for up to a year;
  5. When you need a fiddlehead fix, thaw them and follow the cooking instructions above.

Our top recipes!

To truly appreciate their earthy qualities, we recommend sautéing them with butter or serving them with a hollandaise dipping sauce. If you want to get fancy, here are some of our fave recipes: Pickled Fiddleheads, Lemon Fettuccine with Fiddleheads & Goat Cheese, and Crispy Fiddleheads.

Bon appétit!