Cooking with Fiddlehead Ferns

I was at my friend Faon’s place the other night and she asked me if I knew how to cook fiddlehead ferns. I consider myself a bit of a connaisseur when it comes to Alaskan wilderness edibles, but I’d never attempted  picking or cooking fiddlehead ferns.

This is the time of year to pick ferns in Alaska — right when they are unfurling their spiral tendrils from the previous years’ mound of dead fern. Just snap them off at the base of the stem like asparagus.

Here is a photo of some ferns in Kodiak in June.

You should pick fiddlehead ferns when they are even shorter and more coiled up than these ones. This is just the only photo I happen to have. The ones we picked didn’t have any leaves sticking out yet and they were about five inches tall.

Faon and I decided to serve them at my parents’ house this evening. They were surprisingly delicious. For some reason I expected them to be tough and bitter like rhubarb, but they were tender and flavorful like asparagus.

We first blanched them and then sauteed them in garlic oil with roasted pine nuts and fresh oregano.

First, I’ll tell you how to make garlic olive oil

40 cloves of garlic, peeled.
1 litre of olive oil

Cut each clove of garlic in half. Place in a large jar or sealable container. Fill container with olive oil. Cover and let sit 10-14 days at room temperature. Remove the garlic cloves and either toss them or use them in focaccia bread or pizza.

If you don’t have time to make garlic olive oil, the fern recipe could be altered by first sauteing a few garlic cloves in the olive oil before adding the pine nuts and oregano.

15-20 fiddlehead ferns, rinsed in cold water
2 Tbs. garlic olive oil
1 Tbs. fresh oregano, chopped
2 Tbs. pine nuts

Trim the ends off of each fern and pull off any fuzzy leafy bits in the spirals.
Prepare a bowl with ice and cold water and set by the stove.
Heavily salt a medium pot of water and bring to a boil. When water is boiling, toss in the ferns and boil for four minutes.
Meanwhile, heat a small saute pan with the olive oil. Add the oregano and the pine nuts and brown the pine nuts over low heat.
When the ferns are done boiling, add them to the ice bath. Gently dry off ferns with a paper towel.
When the pine nuts are brown, toss in the ferns until they are heated through. Sprinkle with salt and serve.

4 thoughts on “Cooking with Fiddlehead Ferns”

  1. We have always collected fiddle head ferns on early spring hikes carrying them in a bag. We saute them in olive oil with garlic….but I love the idea of pine nuts as well. We make sure to not over pick an area…picking just one or two from each plant cluster. I've also never blanched them first and I think that's another great idea. Thanks!

  2. Onion, garlic, ginger, 1/4 ground beef (or pork/chicken)a splash of shoyu and stir fry until beef (or meat)is cooked thoroughly. Serve on rice and it is so yummmmmmmmmmy!

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