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What Are Fiddleheads? How to Use These Edible Fern Shoots

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July 2020

What Are Fiddleheads? How to Use These Edible Fern Shoots

When May changes, it’s that time of year again. These wavy tips of the ostrich fern, called fiddleheads, are finally available and ready to be eaten for their earthy and nutty taste.

Ferns and monophytes (also called fernsallies) are an old group of plants that are 380 million years old. Today there are more than 11,000 species, most of which are not safe to eat.

The ostrich fern, on the other hand, has young, curly shoots that are easy to cook and eat.

Culinary tablets are very popular because of their unique taste and impressive nutrient content. If you can afford them, you will be happy to add them to your vegetable dishes or create new side dishes.

What are violinists?

Fiddleheads are the young shoots of the ostrich fern or Matteuccia struthiopteris. They are bright green in colour and have tightly rolled ends about one or two centimetres long.

Spring shots can be prepared in a very short time.

You may never have heard of the violin fern, but there is a loyal herd waiting to do its sport all year round along the east coast of the United States and throughout Canada. They are only available for a short period of time, from mid-April to the beginning of May, but if you are not fed, you can also find tablets at some special food markets.

What’s all the fuss? Firstly, they are difficult to obtain because of the short harvest season.

They have a sweet and pleasant taste and can be cooked very easily because they are edible raw.

The nutrient content of the tablets is also impressive. They are rich in antioxidants, omega-3 fatty acids and other important nutrients.

Violin heads Nutrition

The U.S. Department of Agriculture reports that one ounce (28 grams) of raw tablets approximately

  • 9.5 calories
  • 1.6 grams of carbohydrates
  • 1.3 grams of protein
  • 0,1 gram fat
  • 1013 International Units Vitamin A (20% DV)
  • 7.4 milligrams of vitamin C (12% of DV)
  • 1.4 milligrams of niacin (7% of DV)
  • 0.1 milligram manganese (7% of DV)
  • 0.1 milligram copper (4 percent of DV)
  • 0.1 milligram riboflavin (3% of DV)
  • 104 milligrams of potassium (3% of DV)
  • 28 milligrams phosphorus (3% of DV)
  • 0.4 milligram iron (2% of DV)
  • 9.5 milligram magnesium (2% of DV)
  • 0.2 milligram zinc (2% of DV)


1. Rich in vitamin A.

Vitamin A acts as a powerful antioxidant in the body and plays a vital role in maintaining healthy skin, vision and immunity. Studies show that carotenoids in foods containing vitamin A reduce free radicals that cause DNA damage.

This nutrient also helps to reduce inflammation, improve cholesterol levels and maintain bone health.

Only one ounce of Fiddlehead Greens contains more than 20% of the recommended daily vitamin A. It is therefore an excellent way to provide the body with antioxidants to combat disease and aging.

2. vitamin C supply

Eating foods containing vitamin C is an excellent way to promote healthy ageing, increase immunity, neutralise free radicals and reduce the risk of inflammatory processes. Vitamin has strong antioxidant properties that play a central role in health and disease.

This explains why studies show that a higher intake of vitamin C can be associated with a reduced risk of many chronic diseases.

3. A good source of niacin

Niacin in violinists plays an important role in health. It is essential for the body to convert food into energy and promote the health of the brain, skin and heart.

Studies show that the vitamin also plays an important preventive role in neurodegenerative diseases.

4. Low calorie content

The easy to prepare Fiddlehead Greens are a nutritious, low-calorie snack or side dish. With only 9.5 calories germinating per ounce, they fill you up without significantly increasing your calorie intake.

Including low-calorie foods in every meal is a great way to lose or maintain weight. In addition, the nutrients in the fern leaves help to replenish energy and reduce inflammation, which contributes to overall wellbeing.

5. It’s made for a healthy meal.

Thanks to their antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, low calorie and trace element content, we can say with certainty that eating these young fern shoots is a healthy choice. They provide nutritious side dishes or complement soups, salads and much more.

What’s more, they are unique and offer a scent you can’t feel all year round.

Tablet cooking method

As said, baby food is popular, but it can also be found in shops with a wild food department. They can also be bought at farmers’ markets and from individual managers.

You’ll probably find fresh Fiddlehead Greens that you can buy in season and frozen off-season shoots.

It’s very easy to make Fiddlehead Greens for dinner:

  1. Rinse thoroughly first to remove dirt or grit.
  2. They should be easy to process, which can be done with sauce, steaming or cooking sprouts.
  3. Be careful not to boil your sprouts over. So, if you cook them, just do it for about 6 to 8 minutes.

They have a slightly sweet, nutty and spicy taste. They therefore taste good when cooked with butter, olive oil or lemon. They can be added to salads, pastas, soups, French fries, egg salad and vegetable dishes on the shelf.

They are also very popular as accompanists to any dish.


Here is a recipe for a large fiddlehead, which can be used as a side dish or in the fryer:

You need about two or three cups washed and trimmed violin heads.

To clean the seedlings, soak them in water, wipe off any brown paper wraps and remove dirt or gravel. Then cut off all the brown parts at the ends.

They are now ready to be cooked and eaten. That’s what you have to do:

  • Put 3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil in a medium sized frying pan.
  • Add a finely chopped clove of garlic.
  • Spray ½ with a teaspoon of salt and pepper.
  • Add the fiddleheads and let them drain on low heat for 7 to 10 minutes.
  • Remove the ferns from the fire and cover them with lemon juice.

You can reserve your recordings in boiling water for about a minute. It is not necessary, but it reduces the bitterness of the violinists.

Risks and side effects

Don’t forget that many ferns can be poisonous, so don’t go to the tablets without an experienced guide.

You may have heard of poisonous violinists. Eating rough shoots can be poisonous, and eating poisonous ferns is of course also problematic. Therefore, only ostrich shoots should be lightly cooked and eaten.

The consumption of raw shoots is not recommended due to possible bacterial and toxic effects. Moreover, the use of too many of them can cause stomach problems.


  • Fiddleheads are young shoots of curly fern. In spring they are fed and eaten with a unique taste and nutritional value.
  • I wonder how you cook fiddleheads? It’s simple: germs are safe for food, but must be easy to prepare. This can be done by storing, steaming or cooking the treated rolls.
  • Fiddlehead Greens are rich in vitamin A, vitamin C, niacin and other important trace elements. They can help improve immunity, fight free radicals, promote healthy aging and increase energy levels.