Basic Boiled Fiddlehead Ferns

Preparation info

  • Serves

    4 to 6

    as a side dish
    • Difficulty


Appears in

Vegetables from Amaranth to Zucchini

By Elizabeth Schneider

Published 2001

  • About

Having steamed, poached, braised, microwaved, and boiled fiddlehead ferns, I find the last method best retains texture and color, and it eliminates the bitterness that sometimes unbalances the flavor. Ferns cooked with baking soda have a more uniform but somewhat soft texture, no trace of bitterness, and slightly brighter coloring. The choice is yours. Both methods yield pretty, pliant ferns ready to sauce, sauté, or dress for salad.


  • 1 pound fiddlehead ferns (1 to 1½ inches in diameter)


    Method 1

    1. Trim base of each fern if necessary, to leave only a short tail beyond circumference of each round shape. If furry brown covering remains on ferns, rub it off. Rinse briskly under running water.
    2. Drop ferns into a large pot of boiling salted water. Boil until tender throughout—about 5 minutes—testing often; if they are undercooked, their full flavor will not develop. Drain well.

    Method 2

    Proceed as above, but boil ferns in 2 quarts water to which you have added 1 tablespoon kosher salt and ½ teaspoon baking soda. Cook for a shorter period of time, about 3 to 4 minutes.

    Serving Suggestions for Basic Boiled Fiddlehead Ferns

    • Serve freshly cooked with butter, chives, and parsley.
    • Serve freshly cooked with about ¾ cup hollandaise, maltaise, cream or cheese sauce.
    • Refresh boiled ferns in ice water; drain (can be refrigerated). To serve, melt 2 tablespoons butter in large skillet. Sauté ferns until heated through. Sautéed morels make a fine addition.
    • Refresh boiled ferns, drain, and blot dry. Toss with ¾ cup vinaigrette.

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