How to Forage for Fiddlehead Ferns

Fiddleheads are the unopened leaves of the ostrich fern. Young fiddlehead fronds are a favorite among foragers. They appear in late spring when the new, emerald green leaves push their tightly furled heads from the papery brown scales of the root stock. The season for fiddleheads is a brief one in late April or early May as the leaves push up through the soil. Once the leaves open, the chance has passed.

foraging for fiddlehead ferns

Identifying Fiddlehead Ferns

It’s best to identify Ostrich ferns in the summer. Some ferns look similar to the ostrich fern, but can be toxic. Mark the position of the ostrich fern and then you will know where to forage in the spring. Ostrich ferns have long, beautiful fronds that taper towards the bottom-their distinctive feature.

The fiddleheads will emerge from papery brown scales and be a very bright green. They are distinctive and you’ll not struggle to identify them.

identifying ostrich fern

This fiddlehead is perfect for picking!

Once they unfurl, it’s too late.

To enjoy this incredibly delicious woodland delicacy, search for fronds when they are still tightly furled and about 4-6 inches high (10-15 cm). With a sharp knife, just nip the fronds off about half an inch from the curled leaf.

Watch the video here:

How to Cook Fiddlehead Ferns

You can’t eat fiddleheads raw! Be sure to boil them for 7-10 minutes. Rinse them well. You can now add them to salads, or fry them in garlic butter with a little salt and pepper for a truly delicious dish.

You can refrigerate them for up to a week.


Nikki is an author and writer specializing in green living ideas and tips, adventure travel, upcycling, and all things eco-friendly. She's traveled the globe, swum with sharks and been bitten by a lion (fact). She lives in a tiny town with a fat cat and a very bad dog.

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