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Fiddleheads: Cleaning, Storing, and Cooking

A feast of Fiddleheads is an annual spring tradition for many people. For information on how to find and identify these tasty treats, check out Early Spring Greens: Fantastic Fiddleheads in the Plant (and Fungus) Profiles section of this blog. Here, I want to highlight cleaning, storage, and cooking.

Photo 1: Cleaning fiddlheads is most easily done in a sink full of cold water.

Once you’ve collected your Fiddleheads, you’ll need to remove those papery scales and any dirt that has collected in the stem groove. I find the easiest way to do this is just dump everything in a sink filled with cold water (Photo 1). Swish things around to loosen the scales and dirt, and then scoop out the Fiddleheads and rinse them under the tap (bonus if you have a spray nozzle!). Let them drain for a bit, and you’ll end of with a nice bowl of cleaned, ready-to-use Fiddleheads (Photo 2).

Photo 2: Fresh PEI fiddleheads, cleaned and ready to use.

You can store them like this in the refrigerator for a week or so. (Some people prefer to store them in a bowl of water. I don’t find that adds anything to the quality, and I usually just end up spilling the water!). If you want to keep them longer-term, you can blanch and freeze like you would green beans.

Fiddleheads must be cooked before eating, but my methods differ a bit from “official” recommendations. Full disclosure: Health Canada recommends boiling Fiddleheads for 15 minutes or steaming them for 10-12 minutes. There have been cases of food poisoning from undercooked Fiddleheads. That said, I find these recommendations result in over-cooked mush and so I reduce the times a bit: 10-12 minutes for boiling and 7-10 minutes for steaming. You can also sauté Fiddleheads, but you need to boil or steam them first (Photo 3).

Photo 3: Fiddleheads steamed for 10 minutes. Enjoy these with some butter and lemon juice, saute them with oil and garlic, add them into an omlette or frittata, or mix them into your favourite pasta .

I enjoy steamed Fiddleheads with butter, lemon juice, and a bit of salt. If I’m feeling creative, I’ll toss cooked Fiddleheads onto a pizza; add them to a quiche, omlette, or frittata; or mix them into pasta (my special is Fiddleheads and cubed ham in linguine with Alfredo sauce).

I tried roasting Fiddleheads for the first time this year (Photo 4). These were just tossed in a bit of olive oil and roasted at 425F for 20 minutes, turning once halfway through. I threw in a bit of sliced garlic, but whole garlic cloves would have worked better. Note to self for next time!

Photo 4: Fiddleheads tossed in oil and roasted at 425F for 20 minutes (turning once halfway through).

The Fiddlehead season is short, so enjoy them while you can. Comment below to let me know your favourite way to enjoy this ephemeral part of PEI untamed!

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