This Spicy Pickled Fiddleheads recipe is a delicious way to preserve the unique seasonal flavor of wild fiddlehead ferns and enjoy a healthy snack all year round!
What are fiddleheads
Fiddleheads are the furled fronds of a young fern and are found all over the world and in parts of the US, with the type of fern varying by each region.
They have a mild, slightly grassy flavor and are typically used in place as a green vegetable in cooking.
Each spring, wild ostrich fiddlehead ferns make a short appearance for a few weeks and it's always exciting to get my little hands on some every year.
Seen at farm stands and farmer's markets throughout New England, they are considered quite the rare delicacy here.
Tips on choosing the freshest fiddleheads
Always look for fern heads that are:
- a bright green color
- have tightly rolled/closed heads
Don't freak out if you see a brown papery chaff on the fern heads because it's completely normal.
The chaff can be easily removed by lightly rubbing it with your fingers until it falls right off.
How to cook fiddleheads
Care must be taken to ensure fiddleheads are not eaten raw or undercooked, as they can cause some intestinal issues similar to food poisoning.
Be sure to cook them for at least 12 minutes before eating to avoid any issues.
An easy and typical way to serve fiddleheads are to sauté them.
Blanche them for about 3 minutes, then finish in a pan with butter, seasonings, and fresh herbs. Simply delicious!
Fiddleheads are a healthy snack! They are high in iron, fiber, and vitamins A and C, as well as a great source of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.
Pickling vegetables to extend the season and flavor of this fiddleheads recipe
Since the season is so short for fiddleheads, I like to make pickled vegetables out of them.
Each year I make a couple of batches with the fresh wild ferns my Father-in-Law gets from his neighbor in Maine.
Pickling them allows me to savor the favor of the fiddleheads all year, even when they are out of season.
Spicy pickled fiddleheads can be used in a variety of different ways:
- as a wonderful addition to a meat and cheese board
- as a pickle substitute in a sandwich
- spice up a seafood platter
- added in place of relish in tuna or egg salad or even deviled eggs
- as a garnish in a cocktail (like a Bloody Mary)
- or just eat them straight out of the jar!
Looking for a more traditional pickle, try this super easy recipe by A Fork's Tale.
Please let me know in the comments below all the unique and interesting ways you end up using this Spicy Pickled Fiddleheads recipe.
Spicy Pickled Fiddleheads Recipe
- ½ pound fiddlehead ferns (choose tight, closed fern heads)
- 2 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon Kosher salt , divided
- ½ cup apple cider vinegar
- ½ cup water
- ½ teaspoon crushed spicy red pepper flakes
- ½ teaspoon white or black peppercorns
- 3 whole allspice berries
- 2 small garlic clove , smashed
- Place fresh fiddlehead ferns in a large bowl of cold water and wash away any dirt. Gently rub away any brown chaff on the fern heads with your fingers and trim the ends. Set aside.
- Over high high, bring to a boil two quarts of water in a medium saucepan and stir in two tablespoons of salt. Add cleaned fiddlehead ferns and cook for 12 minutes, stirring occasionally. Drain, then rinse the ferns with cold water. Set aside.
- Combine vinegar, ½ cup water, and 1 teaspoon salt in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Add all the spices and garlic cloves to the mixture and remove pan from the heat.
- Add the fiddlehead ferns to a clean jar and completely cover with the pickling liquid.
- Keep tightly covered, unsealed jars in the refrigerator and use within a month. Allow pickles to age for at least a week before eating (but they are pretty delish after just 3 days in the refrigerator!).
- For longer storage, use a boiling water bath canner to seal the jar and store for up to one year in the pantry.
Recipe Notes & Tips:
- For a more developed flavor, allow pickles to age for at least a week before eating
- If using within one month, keep tightly covered, unsealed jars in the refrigerator or can use a boiling water bath canner to seal the jar and store for up to one year in the pantry. Can refer to this canning guide for more information.
- Adapted from Serious Eats
How long should they be in the bath?
Hi Colleen, do you mean the water bath for canning? Usually it's 10 minutes, but could be a little longer if using a jar that is 16 ounces or larger. Here's an easy beginning guide to canning for more information: https://www.almanac.com/water-bath-canning-beginners-guide
Super excited to have found your recipe today. Just picked the first of our seasons fiddleheads! Am about to get pickling!
That's wonderful and so happy you found my recipe! Please let me know how you like the fiddleheads pickled!
We tried this recipe this year with the fiddleheads we foraged and safe to say they were a hit. As soon as they had sat long enough they were gone! Didn’t even last a single day! Planning on doing lots more with the 10lbs we picked.
I'm sooooo jealous you picked 10 lbs of fiddleheads, Cassandra!! Can I send you my address and you can mail some? hahaha! Very happy you liked the recipe and thank you for taking the time to leave a review 🙂
Am looking gor away to just can them for the winter. I dont want to pickle them but can't seem to find the right way.
Hi Heidi, Pressure canning is not recommended for fiddleheads, but they can be canned after pickling. If you don't want to pickle them, you can freeze them. Here's a great article by the University of Maine with additional information and how to freeze them: https://extension.umaine.edu/publications/4198e/
Yummy 😋 we pick them every year in New brunswick
Best steamed with garlic butter.. fiddle head soup.
They're delicious and really easy to prepare.
It's almost picking season here.
I think I still have 40 bags frozen in freezer from last year
40 bags?? Can you mail me a couple, Vanessa? lol! I would love to have that many bags in my house right now. Do you go out and forage them yourself? Steamed with garlic butter sounds wonderful! I'm picking some up this week at a local farm, so definitely trying them that way. Can't wait!
Milena | Craft Beering
Well, first of all - you are so fortunate to live in a region where these beautiful green ferns are harvested. I am pretty determined to order some to be shipped to us next year, so this recipe will come in handy come spring. A few years ago we took an extended trip to the Vancouver (BC) and Seattle areas and it was fiddleheads harvest time. Yum! We gorged on them several times. Luckily someone else had cooked them, lol. Best part of travelling besides beer!
Dawn - Girl Heart Food
I know about your computer probs and those always suck big time!! Glad you managed to rescue your pics and video! Do you know that I've never in my life had a fiddlehead?! This whole pickling thing seems like a good place to start. I think I've avoided them cause not really sure how to handle them. We have them in the grocery around here, but they're not super common in restaurants or anything. Loved seeing the video and now it makes me want to try. I love the idea of having them on a meat and cheese board...extra blue cheese for me. XOXO