Fiddleheads (ostrich ferns) have been harvested from the wild and eaten as a traditional food for centuries in Maine, Japan, and Canada’s Maritime provinces. They are best prepared simply, to allow the pure flavour of the fiddlehead to really shine. In this recipe, where they are lightly cooked in vegan butter and drizzled with fresh lemon juice, you’ll be able to savour these strange little vegetables with every bite.
In Canada, “fiddlehead” refers to the young, coiled leaves of a specific type of fern called the ostrich fern. Another name is the fiddlehead fern. Despite being a Canadian native, they are a very elusive vegetable in the produce aisles. Most fiddleheads are still harvested wild, and they’re only in season for a very short time, usually from May to early June depending on the province.
Although I’ve heard that canned or frozen fiddleheads are available in some Atlantic provinces, I’ve never seen them here in Alberta. Besides, fiddleheads surely taste best when they’re eaten fresh. So when you see them in your supermarket, grab them while you can!
What do Fiddleheads Taste Like?
In my opinion, the taste of fiddleheads comes closest to asparagus, and so does the texture. They have a slightly sticky, slightly slippery, yet crunchy mouthfeel that makes them pretty fun to eat. Overall, they have a very mild flavour, which is why I went quite light on the seasonings.
Fiddleheads, in my opinion, are best with just a sprinkling of salt and pepper, and some lemon juice to cut the fattiness of the vegan butter. This way, the subtle taste of the fiddleheads can shine without being obscured by other flavours.
What to Serve with Sautéed Fiddleheads
- Hearty and filling Frijoles de la Olla or Mexican stewed beans are a great choice to serve with fiddleheads.
- Impossible Meatloaf makes a wonderful main course to pair with these fiddleheads.
- Put an egg on it: I topped my plate of fiddleheads with a vegan tofu fried egg for some extra protein. Here’s the recipe, courtesy of Post Punk Kitchen.
Lemony Fiddleheads in Vegan Butter
Use Imperial/Metric buttons below to toggle between volume vs weight measurements. I recommend weighing out your ingredients for best results.
- ½ lb fiddleheads, cleaned 230 g; see
- 1 tbsp vegan butter 15 g
- ¼ tsp fine salt or 1/2 tsp kosher salt 2 g
- ¼ tsp black pepper
- ½ lemon’s worth of juice 2 tbsp or 30 g
- Bring a pot of water to a boil. Add the fiddleheads and simmer for 10–15 minutes (see
- Drain fiddleheads and rinse in cold water.
- Melt a pat of vegan butter in a saucepan on medium heat. Add drained fiddleheads and saute for a few minutes.
- Turn off the heat and stir in salt, black pepper, and lemon juice.
- Make sure to clean your fiddleheads well. Per Health Canada’s guidelines, I rinsed mine a few times in cold water and trimmed off any discoloured areas. If there’s any papery husks on the ferns, make sure to remove those too. Luckily, the fiddleheads I bought from Sobeys didn’t have any husks.
- According to Health Canada, fiddleheads should be boiled for 15 minutes. On the other hand, John Mickel of the New York Botanical Garden says that just 5 minutes is sufficient. I personally went for a happy medium of 10 minutes, which still preserved the nice bright green colour and definitely didn’t give me food poisoning.
Nutrition, Cost, and Emissions Information
Each side plate of sautéed fiddlehead is 98 cal, costs $2.14, and releases 911 gCO2e of carbon emissions into the atmosphere.
Calculation for full recipe as written (2 servings):
Feel free to contact me for sources on the nutritional and carbon emissions information presented here. Note that I am not a nutritionist and guidelines on this page are provided for informational purposes only.