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Apr 3, 2007 11:17 PM

What does fiddlehead taste like?

I saw these at the market the other day, and I've looked on the home cooking board to see how people prepare them.

But, dear hounds, what do they taste like?

They look furry and pod-like, and remind me of okra. Would the taste be similar? Are they slimy, crunchy, grassy, sweet, bitter, what?


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  1. they taste a bit like green beans and are crunchy. their season is extremely short.

    1. They have a rich taste -- I wouldn't have characterized the taste as being similar to green beans. I don't like them too crunchy-- perhaps a tiny bit past el dente. They are good plain with butter and cider or wine vinegar and a bit of pepper. Wash them well and change the water after they first come to a boil ( that's what my mother always does).

      1. I thought they tasted bitter like asparpagus, but much stronger.

        1 Reply
        1. re: coll

          Me too - I wasn't actually crazy about them myself and I love vegetables.

        2. i like mine sauteed w/garlic and a little butter...texture is like asparagus but more bitter sorta like mustard greens. just don't over cook!

          1. I've never understood the allure of fiddleheads, which are actually immature fern fronds. I suppose it's the cute shape. I find them vaguely asparagus like but not nearly as good tasting. They are finicky to prepare (must remove scales) and spoil quickly. If you don't overcook them, they can cause stomach cramps and other food-poisoning symptoms in some people. There is at least some suspicion that they may be carcinogenic.

            7 Replies
            1. re: embee

              In northern New England fiddleheads and dandelion greens were among the first greens of spring. After all that snow, you'd eat almost anything green. I like fiddlehead pickles a lot.

              1. re: embee

                how on earth could they be carcinogenic? people have been eating them for centuries.

                1. re: hotoynoodle

                  Growing up in Nova Scotia Fiddleheads were a staple every spring. I find the taste very earthy. Sutee them w/ a very light olive oil, garlic and shallot...a sprig of mint or dill will lighten them up.

                  1. re: hotoynoodle

                    Apparently many ferns produce "fiddleheads" in the spring and some of these are toxic and/or carcinogenic. As with some types of mushrooms, a non-expert forager would not be able to differentiate safe varieties from potentially dangerous ones. Even the safe varieties are known to cause "food poisoning" type symptoms in some people, though scientists don't seem to have figured out why this happens. References are available, but you'll need to hunt them up yourself if you want details.

                    1. re: hotoynoodle

                      Though there are a a few variations, fiddleheads come from the Ostrich Fern. The east coast variety is slightly smaller and starts growing slightly earlier. it is not as bright green throughout its growing season- indeed, they can be brown and slightly scaly. The west coast version is a bit more succulent looking- smoother and greener.
                      Both, however, have potential health risks. The ostrich fern has a slightly waxy surface as it matures as a natural repellant to herbivores and insects. If I remember correctly, the leaves (which at this point are tiny feathers) have a light fuzz that is also an irritant- again while mature. Other species of ostrich fern are downright dangerous to eat at any stage.
                      I think the fear of the fern is like lumping tomatoes and eggplants in with deadly nightshade- yes, they're all belladonna, but as long as you're not eating the leaves, stems, and skins in huge quantities, it would take tons to have any serious effects.

                      1. re: lunchbox

                        Have gotten them at the local farmers' markets here in Portland. Sort of a strong rustic green been flavor. I stirfry with garlic, shiitake, and leeks! Crunchy, not at all like okra.

                    2. re: embee

                      Only certain varieties are "thought" to be carcinogenic although there has been no real evidence of anyone getting cancer from them.

                      They look like okra which I don't like so I've pretty much stayed away from them. Since people say they don't, I still may not try them because they sound like a pain in the arse to prepare and don't keep well. I like my veggies hearty and can withstand being in the fridge for at least a week.