Sautéed Fiddleheads


  • Makes4 to 4 servings

Dustin and Jared eye each other warily across the table. There are exactly seven fiddleheads left on the plate. I can see a fork fight coming. I must work quickly. I pluck a single fiddlehead from the plate and eat it, then divide the rest up: two for Dustin, two for Jared, and two for my husband, George. This never happens with broccoli.


  • 500 g fresh fiddleheads

  • 2 tbsp butter

  • salt, to taste

  • black pepper, to taste


  • Fresh fiddleheads are the dark green, curled shoots of the common ostrich fern. They come up in the early spring in swamps and along streams. If you have gathered the fiddleheads yourself from a nearby swamp (which you should only do if you really know what you’re looking for), they’ll need some serious washing and cleaning. Cover them with cold water, and remove the papery brown scales that float to the surface. Do this several times to remove as many of the brown bits as possible.

  • If you have bought your fiddleheads from a grocer or at a farmers’ market, they’ll probably be cleaner. So just give them a good rinse in plenty of cold water.

  • Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat. Throw in the fiddleheads and allow the water to return to a boil, uncovered. Let boil for a minute, then drain completely in a colander. You’ll notice that the water has become completely black and gross. Refill the pot with water and bring to a boil. Yes, again. Now toss the partially cooked fiddleheads back into the pot and let the water return to a boil. Boil uncovered for 5 minutes. Drain completely. The water will be darkened, but not quite as black as the first time.

  • Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the fiddleheads and sauté for 4 or 5 minutes, just until coated with butter and heated through. Season with salt and pepper, and serve immediately.

This article was originally published on Feb 01, 2002

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