Wild Fiddlehead Ferns Taste Like Pure Green — Get Some Now


The fiddlehead micro-season is here, so get them now before they all unfurl into the fronds of ostrich ferns.

“They popped up last Friday,” says Franca Tantillo of Buried Treasures, stalwart of the Union Square farmers’ market. “The hot weather that we’ve been having makes them unfurl from tiny little ferns to giant amazing things — the ferns are about five foot tall, almost as tall as me! We go up the Beaver Kill River in canoes and we pick them from the banks and on islands there. But this year we’ve had a lot of Japanese knotweed, so there are fewer fiddleheads to be had, and it’s going to be an even shorter season than usual.”

Look for a bright green, tightly coiled fern head, and generally speaking, pick a smaller over a larger head. Larger often means older, and older often means bitter. The taste, somewhere between okra, asparagus, and artichoke, can be strong, but if you blanch them in boiling water first, you’ll end up with a milder vegetable. “I love them,” says Tantillo. “To me, they taste of pure green!”

Rinse fiddleheads well before cooking, and store in the fridge wrapped in damp paper towel for a week or so, but the fresher the better.

  • Try them sautéed with garlic and a pinch of dried red chile flakes. Finish with a good knob of butter.
  • Or boiled, then served with mayonnaise with a good squirt of lemon.
  • Boil in water that’s been acidulated with a splash of vinegar (to keep them bright green), chill, then serve on a salad of butter lettuce dressed with a mustardy dressing and draped with ham.
  • Sauté sliced fiddleheads with sausage, deglaze the pan with white wine, and toss in penne and a splash of pasta water to make a sauce.
  • Best of all, try them breaded, deep-fried, and served with a fresh tomato sauce for dipping — “my absolute favorite!” says Tantillo.