Fiddlehead Ferns a Local Spring Treat

So I am back in Montreal for a bit and decided to head down to the Atwater market to see what was in season. Most of the stalls were teaming with every type of vegetable and fruit imaginable so when I enquired about what was local the response was a chuckle and “are you kidding? not much!” I did finally discover that fiddlehead ferns, asparagus and strawberries were the flavor of the day.

I decided that since the growing season for fiddleheads is so short and that they are not common in South Africa, I should give them a try. After a bit of research, I decided to create an Italian inspired recipe with roasted tomatoes, garlic and basil.

See what you think….

Fiddlehead Fern Facts:

… for those who have never cooked them before:

1. They have a similar taste to asparagus so you can interchange the two

2. If not fully cooked, fiddleheads can be toxic due to a bacteria that is found in the ferns

3. They can be parboiled and frozen for future use

4. They are perfect for pickling

5. Their name was created because they resemble the carved wood at the end of a fiddle.

6. They are an excellent source of vitamin C and A

7. They are young ferns, hence why they are so small and still curled tightly in a circle

8. To wash and prepare, you need to cut off the ends and also rub off the paper thin skin on the outside.

preparing the ferns

9. They can have a slightly bitter taste so it is best to parboil them prior to using them in a dish.

[b]Fiddlehead Ferns and Roasted Tomatoes[/b]
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 6
[i]I wait to head back to Canada to enjoy these seasonal treats.[/i]
  • 3 cups fiddlehead ferns
  • 2 cups baby tomatoes
  • 1tbsp olive oil
  • sea salt
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely minced
  • 4 rashes of bacon, chopped ( not necessary if a vegetarian dish)
  • 1tbsp olive oil
  • 1 handful of basil, chiffonade
  • Soak fiddleheads in a bowl of water. Be sure to do the process a few times over an hour.
  1. Soak fiddleheads in a bowl of water. Be sure to do the process a few times over an hour.
  2. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
  3. Pour in fiddleheads and cook at a rolling boil for 10 mins. You will notice that the water will turn a brackish brown colour. Do not panic!
  4. In an oven proof dish, roast baby tomatoes with salt and 1 tbsp of oil at 350F (180 C) for 20 mins or until slightly browned and bursting.
  5. Once fiddleheads are cooked, remove from water with a slotted spoon and place in an oven-proof dish. Discard water.
  6. Heat up 1 tbsp of oil, cook bacon (if using) and add garlic at end to soften. Add fiddlehead ferns and then tomatoes with juices to pan.
  7. Transfer mixture back into fiddlehead dish, add salt and pepper and warm in oven.
  8. Just before serving, add chiffonade of basil, a squeeze of lemon and some parmesan chards.


Fresh fiddlehead ferns


water after boiling!


roasted tomatoes


Adding tomatoes to fiddleheads


Final recipe

This is a great side dish or can be used as a topping to a chicken paillard or chicken piccata

Chicken picatta topped with fiddlehead ferns and tomatoes

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