Spicy Pickled Fiddleheads

fiddlehead ferns
Wikimedia Commons/CC BY-SA 4.0
  • Total: 20 mins
  • Prep: 15 mins
  • Cook: 5 mins
  • Canning Time: 10 mins
  • Yield: 4 half pint jars (16 servings)
Nutritional Guidelines (per serving)
79 Calories
0g Fat
16g Carbs
3g Protein
See Full Nutritional Guidelines Hide Full Nutritional Guidelines
Nutrition Facts
Servings: 4 half pint jars (16 servings)
Amount per serving
Calories 79
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 0g 0%
Saturated Fat 0g 0%
Cholesterol 0mg 0%
Sodium 455mg 20%
Total Carbohydrate 16g 6%
Dietary Fiber 1g 5%
Protein 3g
Calcium 26mg 2%
*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 (Matteuccia struthiopteris)
  • 1 medium onion (peeled, quartered and cut into thin slices)
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 1/4 cups white wine vinegar (or apple vinegar)
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1 tablespoon kosher (or other non-iodized salt)
  • 1 or 2 small hot chile peppers (chopped or crushed, you can use fresh or dried)
  • 1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds (whole)
  • 1/2 teaspoon coriander seeds (whole)
  • 1/4 teaspoon cumin seeds (whole)
  • 6 - 8 black peppercorns  (whole)
  • 4 - 6 spicebush (Lindera benzoin, whole; or allspice berries)

Steps to Make It

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

  2. Blanch the fiddleheads.
    Fiddleheads can be somewhat toxic raw and must be cooked before you eat them (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.

  3. Prepare the brine and load the jars.
    Combine the water, vinegar, honey and salt in a small saucepan. 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.
    Toss the blanched fiddleheads together with the sliced onion. 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 head space.
    Pour the hot brine over the vegetables, covering them completely but still leaving 1/4 to 1/2-inch head space (Tip: You can refrigerate leftover brine and use it for future batches of pickles). Screw on canning lids.

  4. Process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes. Wait at least a 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 1 year (they are still safe to eat after that but the quality will decline). Once opened, store in the refrigerator.

Quick Version

  1. Skip the boiling water bath and store the jars in the refrigerator. They will keep in the refrigerator for up to 3 months.