Playing the Fiddleheads

Warning: weird vegetable alert. In case you didn’t know it, you can eat the unfurled fronds of an ostrich fern. Yes, you heard that right. You can not only eat them but, if you’re like me, you can enjoy them immensely.

Fiddleheads are, at least to most of us, a delicacy that is only to be had in the late spring months of May and June. Mostly found on the east coast and in Canada, fiddleheads are harvested once a year and, like ramps and morel mushrooms, savored for their taste as much as their scarcity.

We have tried growing ostrich ferns here in our zone 5 area of Northern Illinois but, thus far, have not had much luck. (read: any) We have a relative in a neighboring town who grows them by the truckloads and who we’ve hotly debated pillaging them from but, alas, have not.

All a matter of time, in my book.

But, for now, I order them fresh from a grower out east. As much as I’d love to tell you who, I fear their supply will diminish from my post and, therefore, leave me fiddlehead-less, which is not acceptable. What I will tell you is that to order and ship them isn’t cheap – figure around $50 total price for 2 pounds – but, at least in my book, worth it.

Behold….the fiddlehead:


That, my friends, is a thing of beauty.

I lived in Connecticut for quite a stretch of time and these little beauties can be easily found there while they’re in season. That’s how I stumbled upon them and, to this day, relish in their deliciousness. It is why I pay a pretty penny to still be able to enjoy them.

Rule number one with fiddleheads – if you’re not buying them from a reputable establishment, be sure you’re purchasing them from a reputable seller.

Rule number two: don’t eat fiddleheads raw. They can cause stomach upset if eaten raw and then you won’t be thanking me for turning you on to them.

Rule number three: aside from NOT eating them raw, you can prepare them almost any way you prefer to prepare your other veggies…steamed, roasted, grilled, etc.

I prefer mine roasted or grilled, with a drizzle of olive oil, some roughly-chopped garlic, and some coarse salt. Simple, yes, but divine. 15 minutes or so is all it takes; like most veggies, you don’t want them crunchy but, for the love of all that’s holy, don’t turn them into mush.

What do fiddleheads taste like, you ask? Asparagus, mostly, at least to me. They’re a bit grassy…earthy…green.

They do not, however, taste like chicken. Just sayin’.



2 thoughts on “Playing the Fiddleheads

  1. I used to live in Connecticut and have enjoyed fiddleheads as well. I don’t love them enough to pay $25.00 a pound so your secret supplier is safe.

    • Lesley at Lola Rugula says:

      That is really how much I love them, John. It’s a once an every-other-year-or-so indulgence that I splurge on. Glad to hear you’ve had a chance to try them and like them…people who have never heard of them always look at me like I’m a bit loony when I describe what they are.

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