Fiddleheads are available in Seattle farmers markets in spring and early summer. Fiddleheads are the tips of a young fern plant, before the frond grows to maturity and unfolds. The uncoiled frond resembles the head of a fiddle or violin, hence the name. Fiddleheads can be harvested from many varieties of fern. In the Pacific Northwest, the ladyfern, a variety of Wood Fern is harvested by Foraged and Found Edibles. On the east coast, ostrich or cinnamon ferns are commonly harvested. In Alaska, fiddleheads are a nutritious native food.
What is it related to? Fiddlehead from ladyfern (Athyrium Roth) is a variety of wood fern (Dryopteridaceae) common in the Pacific Northwest. Fiddleheads may also come from other varieties of ferns. In North America, fiddlehead fern varieties include ostrich fern (Matteuccia Todaro) and cinnamon fern (Osmunda cinnamomea L.). Other fern varieties are also harvested as fiddleheads in Hawaii and New Zealand.
When is it available? The peak season for fiddleheads in Seattle farmers markets is April-June.
What does it look like? Fiddleheads look most like coiled, thin green beans.
What portions do I eat? The edible portion is the entire fiddlehead.
What does it taste like? The flavor and texture is similar to asparagus, broccoli, or rapini (rabe).
What’s the best way to store it? Store fiddleheads wrapped in towels in the vegetable bin or in plastic bags, in the refrigerator. Preferably, use within 2 days, or store up to one week. Fiddleheads may also be blanched and frozen or pickled.
How is it prepared? Prepare fiddleheads by trimming any darkened ends and washing.
How is it served?Fiddleheads may be served as a side dish or added to soups, stews, pizza, and pasta dishes. Use fiddleheads as you would asparagus, broccoli, or green beans. Some sources suggest eating fiddleheads raw in salads or lightly sautéed. However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that based on outbreaks in 1994 in the New York and British Columbia, Canada that although fiddleheads were found not to contain any known harmful toxins, consumption of lightly cooked fiddleheads may cause diarrhea, vomiting, and/or nausea in some individuals. Therefore, it is recommended to cook fiddleheads by boiling or steaming for at least 10-15 minutes. Similar to the rules for eating mushrooms, consume one small bite of fiddleheads and wait 24 hours before trying a full serving.
What are some substitutes for it? Fiddleheads may be used interchangeably in many recipes calling for asparagus, broccoli, or rapini (rabe), and green beans.
Recipes to get you started:
Fiddlehead Dip from Maine Cooperative Extension via fiddleheadfocus.com
Facts on Fiddleheads with several pickled fiddlehead recipes, plus fiddleheads with pasta or mustard sauce, Bulletin #4198 from Maine Cooperative Extension
Easy Pickled Fiddlehead Ferns from theendivechronicles.com
Fiddlehead soup with spiced pecans from the globeandmail.com
Sautéed Fiddleheadsfrom allrecipes.com
Spring Wild Harvest Ragout With Fiddlehead Greens & Morelsfrom fiddle-heads.comj
Fiddlehead Ferns Steamed With a Creamy Dijon Saucefrom Food.com
Fiddlehead Ferns With Bacon, Browned Garlic and Onion, and White Wine Reductionfrom MarksDailyApple.com
More recipes are featured on the website of Norcliff Farms in Ontario, Canada including soup and pizza
Local restaurants that may offer seasonal fiddlehead dishes are listed on the website of Foraged and Found Edibles, who offers fiddleheads at Seattle farmers markets, including Ballard, Bellevue, U-Districtand West Seattle.
Order the cookbook from Amazon The Fiddlehead Cookbook: Recipes from Alaska’s Most Celebrated Restaurant and Bakery. Fiddleheads have long been a wild, native food in the 49th state.