Spicy Pickled Fiddleheads

fiddlehead ferns
Wikimedia Commons/CC BY-SA 4.0
Prep: 15 mins
Cook: 5 mins
Canning Time: 10 mins
Total: 30 mins
Servings: 16 servings
Yield: 4 1/2-pint jars
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
35 Calories
0g Fat
7g Carbs
1g Protein
Show Full Nutrition Label Hide Full Nutrition Label
Nutrition Facts
Servings: 16
Amount per serving
Calories 35
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 0g 0%
Saturated Fat 0g 0%
Cholesterol 0mg 0%
Sodium 242mg 11%
Total Carbohydrate 7g 3%
Dietary Fiber 1g 5%
Total Sugars 5g
Protein 1g
Vitamin C 12mg 61%
Calcium 47mg 4%
Iron 0mg 3%
Potassium 68mg 1%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

Edible fiddleheads are the unopened fronds of ostrich fern (Matteuccia struthiopteris). They are a special springtime ingredient that is only available for a few weeks each year.

Whether you are foraging for wild ones in the forest or getting yours from the farmers market, this recipe is a tasty way to preserve this seasonal treat.


  • 1 pound fiddlehead ostrich ferns

  • 1 medium onion, quartered, thinly sliced

For the Brine:

  • 1 cup water

  • 1 1/4 cups white wine vinegar, or apple cider vinegar

  • 1/4 cup honey

  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt, or another non-iodized salt

  • 1 or 2 fresh or dried hot chile peppers, chopped or crushed

  • 1/2 teaspoon whole mustard seeds

  • 1/2 teaspoon whole coriander seeds

  • 1/4 teaspoon whole cumin seeds

  • 6 to 8 whole black peppercorns

  • 4 to 6 whole spicebush berries, or allspice berries

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

  2. Fiddlehead ferns usually have bits of a brown, papery sheath sticking to the coiled green parts. Remove the brown bits. The easiest way is to fill a large mixing bowl or sink with water. Swish the fiddleheads in the water vigorously.

  3. Transfer the cleaned fiddleheads to a colander, discard the water, and repeat until the water is mostly clear. Trim off any browned ends.

  4. Blanch the fiddleheads: Fiddleheads can be somewhat toxic when eaten raw and must be cooked before consumption (don't worry, they are both safe and delicious once they are cooked). Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the cleaned and trimmed fiddleheads to the water and cook for 4 minutes. Drain in a colander.

  5. Pack the vegetables into clean 1/2-pint canning jars (it is not necessary to sterilize the jars for this recipe). Be sure to leave 1/2-inch headspace.

Brine, Pack, and Can

  1. Gather the ingredients.

  2. Combine the 1 cup water, vinegar, honey, and salt in a small nonreactive saucepan.

  3. Add the chile pepper, spicebush or allspice, mustard, coriander, cumin, and black pepper. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 5 minutes.

  4. Pour the hot brine over the vegetables in the jars, covering them completely but still leaving 1/4- to 1/2-inch headspace. Screw on canning lids.

  5. Process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes. Using tongs, remove the jars from the water bath and set on a towel-lined flat surface. After the popping sound occurs, indicating a good vacuum seal, retighten the lids. Cool completely before storing in a cool, dark place.

  6. Wait at least one week for the flavors to develop before sampling (they will be even better after a month). The pickles will keep, unopened, at room temperature for at least one year (they are still safe to eat after that, but the quality will decline).


  • You can refrigerate leftover brine and use it for future batches of pickles
  • Once jars are opened, store in the refrigerator.

Recipe Variation

  • Quick Version: Skip the boiling water bath and store the jars in the refrigerator. They will keep in the refrigerator for up to three months.