Spicy Pickled Fiddleheads are a delicious way to preserve the unique seasonal flavor of the wild ferns and enjoy a healthy snack all year round!
Okay, I realize this post is a little late in the season for fiddleheads, since they are a spring seasonal kind of thing. Although I did learn in my research that fiddleheads can sometimes be harvested during the fall in the Pacific Northwest region of the US, so YAY if you live there!
When I made this recipe last May, fiddlehead ferns were in season, but continuing computer problems (and the fact that I temporarily lost these photos and the video!!! YIKES!!), delayed the post. All technology issues resolved, I’m pleased the post is finally published and thinking next year, this recipe will be front and center when fiddlehead fern season begins! Better late than never, right?
What the heck are fiddleheads?
Fiddleheads are the furled fronds of a young fern and are used in place as a green vegetable. They are found all over the world and in parts of the US, with the type of fiddlehead fern varying by each region. Each spring, wild ostrich fiddlehead ferns make a short appearance for a few weeks at farm stands and farmer’s markets throughout my area in New England and it’s always exciting to get my little hands on some every year.
To pick out the best and freshest fiddleheads, choose ones that are firm, bright green, and have tightly rolled/closed fern heads. Don’t freak out if you see a brown papery chaff on the ferns because it’s completely normal and can be easily removed by lightly rubbing with fingers.
Fiddleheads are high in iron, fiber, and Vitamins A and C, as well as being a great source of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. They have a mild and slightly grassy flavor and can be used as a substitute for most any green veggie.
How to cook fiddleheads safely
Fiddleheads should not be eaten raw or undercooked, for they can cause some intestinal issues similar to food poisoning, so be sure to cook them for at least 12 minutes before eating. An easy and typical way to serve fiddleheads are to sauté them and I always blanch them first, for about 3 minutes, then finish in a pan with butter, seasonings, and fresh herbs. Simply delicious!
Since the season is so short, I make a couple of batches of spicy pickled fiddleheads with the fresh wild ferns my Father-in-Law gives me each year (he gets them from his neighbor in Maine). This way I can savor the favor of the fiddleheads even when they are out of season.
Spicy pickled fiddleheads are a wonderful addition to a meat and cheese board, as a pickle substitute in a sandwich (like a BBQ sandwich), added in place of relish in tuna or egg salad (or deviled eggs!), or just eat them straight out of the jar. I’ve also used them in a Bloody Mary cocktail, which is pretty dang awesome!
Hope you try pick up some fresh fiddlehead ferns next time they are in-season and try this unusual Spicy Pickled Fiddleheads recipe. Store them for 1 month in the refrigerator or can them for a longer storage period.
Please let me know in the comments below all the unique and interesting ways you end up using them! Also, if you’re looking for a more traditional pickle recipe, try this super easy one by one of my favorite bloggers, A Fork’s Tale.
- ½ pound fiddlehead ferns (choose tight, closed heads)
- 2 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon Kosher salt, separated
- 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.
- Use a boiling water bath canner to seal the jar and store for up to one year in the pantry or keep 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 refrig!).