Fiddleheads, also called crosiers, are the young unfurled leaves of the ostrich fern (matteuccia struthiopteris) that grow beside riverbanks and streams.  With a growing season that lasts only a few weeks in late April and early May, fiddleheads are considered one of the first treasures of spring, making them a rare but popular delicacy.


Nutrition Notes

Fiddleheads get top marks when it comes to nutrition.  With only 0.2 grams of fat per 1/2 cup serving, fiddleheads provide a healthy dose of potassium, vitamin C and niacin.

Thanks to their deep green colour, fiddleheads contain beta-carotene, a powerful antioxidant also found in bright orange vegetables.  Canada's Food Guide recommends getting at least one serving of dark green vegetables everyday, making fiddleheads a great choice (when you can get your hands on them).

Per 1/2 cup (125 ml) serving:

Calories 21 kcal 
Carbohydrate  3 g 
Fat 0.2 g
Protein  2.8 g
Iron 0.8 mg
Magnesium 21 mg
Phosphorus 61 mg
Niacin 3 mg
Beta carotene 1234 ug
Vitamin C 16 mg

Source: Canadian Nutrient File, 2007

* Fiddleheads should never be eaten raw. They should be thoroughly cooked before eating. See "Preparing" below.


Fiddleheads have been enjoyed for centuries around the world.  Here in Canada, fiddleheads grow on the East coast and in Quebec and Ontario.  While there are many varieties of fern, the ostrich and cinnamon fern are the only two that are edible and safe to eat.  Other varieties of fern may look similar, but can be poisonous.  Fiddleheads available in grocery stores are safe to eat, but care should be taken if you are foraging for these greens on your own.


Fresh fiddleheads are available during their short growing season from late April to mid-May.  When buying fresh fiddleheads, look for those that are tightly curled, bright green in colour and have a crisp texture.  Some fiddleheads may still have a brown, onion-like skin covering the coil, which should be removed before eating.  Avoid any fiddleheads that have begun to uncurl - as this is an indication that they are no longer edible.  Ideally, fiddleheads should have a tight coil that is 2.5 to 5 centimeters in diameter.

If you're looking for fiddleheads outside of their short growing season, you're in luck.  Frozen fiddleheads are available in some major grocery and specialty food stores year round.


Fresh fiddleheads should be stored with care to keep them fresh and intact.  Loosely wrap unwashed fiddleheads in a paper towel and store in a plastic bag in the refrigerator.  While fiddleheads can stay in the refrigerator for up to 10 days, it's best to eat them within a few days for maximum freshness and quality.

You can also blanch and freeze fresh fiddleheads if you want to enjoy them later in the season.  Frozen fiddleheads keep for up to one year.


Remove the brown, papery skin on fiddleheads with your fingers or small brush before washing or cooking them.  Alternatively, place fiddleheads in a paper bag and shake it to remove the scaly skin.  To wash fiddleheads, rinse them in several changes of cold water to remove any husk, dust or dirt.

Fiddleheads should always be cooked thoroughly before eating. Health Canada recommends that fresh fiddleheads be washed several times in fresh cold water. Remove as much of the brown husk as possible from the fiddleheads. They should then be cooked in boiling water for 15 minutes or steamed for 10 to 12 minutes until tender. Fiddleheads should also be boiled or steamed prior to sautéing, frying or baking. Read Health Canada's Food Safety Advisory on fiddleheads.

If you plan to freeze fresh fiddleheads, they must be blanched first.  To blanch fiddleheads, boil them for 2 minutes, remove and then rinse under cold water.  Blanched fiddleheads can be stored in an airtight resealable freezer bag for up to one year.  Previously frozen fiddleheads should still be cooked according to the directions mentioned above before eating.


With a taste and texture similar to asparagus or green beans, fiddleheads are a culinary delicacy with gourmet status.  Fiddleheads are best eaten on their own, drizzled with olive oil and seasoned with salt and pepper.  Of course, there's plenty of other ways to prepare fiddleheads - from soups to stir-fries to ice cream.  Fiddleheads go especially well with cheese, tomato and cream sauces.

Healthy ways to enjoy


  • Sprinkle a handful of precooked fiddleheads into an omelet for a beat-carotene boost.
  • Serve steamed fiddleheads alongside your morning eggs and toast.


  • Toss cooked fiddleheads with cooked wild rice or quinoa and top with fresh herbs and lemon juice for a nutritious mid-day meal.
  • Enjoy a hearty soup made with spring vegetables - including fiddleheads, peas, mushrooms and fresh herbs.


  • Enjoy fiddleheads on their own - toss cooked fiddleheads with olive oil, salt and pepper.
  • Make a tasty pesto by pureeing cooked fiddleheads, olive oil, walnuts, chopped garlic and fresh lemon juice.  Toss with warm pasta for a delicious dinner.
  • Add a handful of cooked fiddleheads to your favourite stir-fry.


  • Fiddlehead ice cream anyone?  This odd combination will have you asking for seconds (see recipe).

More Information

NorCliff Farms Inc. -

Wikipedia -

Canadian Living -  

Did you know?

  • Fiddleheads aren't just a North American delicacy, they are also found in Asia, Australia and New Zealand.
  • The largest grower and distributor of fiddleheads in the world is located right here in Canada.  NorCliff Farms Inc., based in Port Colborne Ontario offers a variety of fresh, frozen and pickled fiddleheads. 
  • Always cook fiddleheads before eating them! Health Canada advises consumers to cook fiddleheads thoroughly to remove a natural toxin present in some fiddleheads.
  • Once fiddleheads have uncurled into a mature fern, they are no longer edible or safe to eat.