Fiddlehead Season In Nova Scotia: Have You Tried Fiddleheads?

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I’ll be honest, I had never heard of fiddleheads until I moved to Nova Scotia. I would see them every spring in the produce aisle of the grocery store, but just kept on walking by and hadn’t purchased them, until now. I finally decided to try them and see what this seasonal delicacy is all about.

Quick Overview Of Fiddleheads

Fiddleheads are edible ferns. They are immature fern fronds harvested in spring, during the early stage of their development when they are tightly coiled and resemble a fiddle’s scroll (the upper end of the instrument), hence the name fiddlehead.


Fiddlehead Season In Nova Scotia

Fiddlehead season is extremely short, usually April and May.

The fiddlehead season is a very exciting time in Nova Scotia. Locals and tourists alike flock to the markets in search of the fresh fiddleheads. Many restaurants feature fiddlehead specials during the season. It is a great time to get out and enjoy the fresh air and explore the sights and sounds of the province. Many festivals and events such as fiddlehead festivals are held throughout the season. It is a great time to enjoy the unique flavors of the province, and an opportunity to meet and talk with locals about their favorite recipes. With a variety of ways to enjoy fiddleheads, the season is not to be missed.


It only takes a few days before the fronds start to unravel and the plant develops into a mature fern.

Fern fiddlehead unfurling with selective focus in new leaf.

There are many varieties of ferns, but the ones harvested on the East coast are the ostrich ferns, which fan out to resemble ostrich feathers once fully grown.


Fiddleheads As A Food Ingredient

Fiddleheads are a unique and versatile ingredient that can be cooked in a variety of ways. They can be boiled, steamed, stir-fried, grilled, roasted, or sautéed. Fiddleheads are rich in nutrients such as iron, calcium, vitamins A and C, and Omega-3 fatty acids. They have a unique taste and texture, and can be used as a substitute for asparagus, spinach, or green beans in recipes. Fiddleheads are also a great addition to salads, soups, stews, and casseroles.

Nutritional Value Of Fiddleheads

Fiddleheads offer a lot of nutritional value.

They are rich in

  • omega-3 fatty acids
  • omega-6 fatty acids
  • vitamin A
  • vitamin C
  • potassium
  • iron
  • fibre

Safety Precautions When Eating Fiddleheads

Not all wild ferns are edible. Some types are toxic. Although ostrich ferns can easily be spotted in woodlands, unless you can identify them with absolute certainty, best not to harvest them yourself.

Even edible fiddleheads can cause food poisoning when eaten raw or undercooked.

Always cut browned ends, remove the husk, rinse thoroughly and then boil or steam the fiddleheads for at least 10 minutes before using them in recipes!

If you plan on foraging for wild ferns, make sure you are well-informed about the process. Before harvesting, you should research the types of ferns in your area and be 100% sure of what you are picking.

It is also important to be respectful of the environment when foraging. Avoid disturbing the habitat and take only as much as you need. Make sure to leave some of the ferns behind so they can spread and repopulate in the future.

Even if you plan on sautéing them, cooking fiddleheads, frying them, incorporating them in a soup recipe, adding them in a salad or in a smoothie… ALWAYS boil or steam them first! And NEVER eat them raw!

It is important to note that, after boiling or steaming fiddleheads, it is important to discard the water used to boil or steam them. This water contains toxins and should not be consumed. Fiddleheads are a great source of essential vitamins and minerals, but it is important to ensure they are cooked properly to avoid any potential toxins. After boiling or steaming, they can then be incorporated into a variety of recipes. Fiddleheads can be sautéed in butter with garlic and herbs, fried in a pan with onion and peppers, or added to soups, salads, and smoothies. Fiddleheads are a delicious and nutritious addition to any meal.

Fiddleheads can be stored in the fridge for up to two weeks.

You can also freeze them and enjoy them year-round. Simply boil or steam first, then blanch, dry and place in freezer bags.

Some grocery stores carry them in the frozen section too.

Easy Recipes

1. Fiddlehead Salad

spring fiddlehead salad

Fiddleheads have a unique taste. In order to enjoy their full flavour try eating them as a salad. Delicious!

  • Rinse a handful of fiddleheads thoroughly
  • Boil or steam for 10 minutes
  • Drain
  • Blanch for 2 minutes
  • Drizzle with 2 tbsp of olive oil
  • Add 1 tsp fresh squeezed lemon juice
  • Season with salt & pepper

2. Fiddlehead Omelette


You can really get creative when it comes to cooking with fiddleheads. For example, you can incorporate them in your breakfast.

  • Rinse a handful of fiddleheads thoroughly
  • Boil or steam for 10 minutes
  • Drain
  • Blanch for 2 minutes
  • Sauté fiddleheads in 1 tbsp butter, for 1 minute
  • Add 4 whisked eggs over top
  • Cook until ready
  • Top with bacon bits and cheese
  • Season with salt & pepper

3. Fried Fiddleheads With Sweet Hummus Sauce

For picky eaters… this recipe is sure to please.

  • Rinse a handful of fiddleheads thoroughly
  • Boil or steam for 10 minutes
  • Drain
  • Blanch for 2 minutes
  • Beat 1 egg
  • Dip the fiddleheads in egg one by one
  • Coat them with breadcrumbs
  • Fry fiddleheads for 2 minutes in hot oil
  • Place on paper towel to remove excess oil
  • Serve with sweet hummus sauce

Sweet hummus sauce

  • 1/2 cup hummus
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • Mix hummus and honey together until smooth

If you haven’t tasted fiddleheads yet, then I hope these recipes will encourage you to try them out!

Happy cooking 😀

Fiddlehead Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What are fiddleheads?

A: Fiddleheads are the curled, young shoots of a fern found in Eastern Canada, specifically in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Quebec. They are considered a delicacy and are referred to as “fiddlehead greens.”

Q: When is fiddlehead season in Nova Scotia?

A: Fiddlehead season in Nova Scotia usually begins in late April and lasts until early June. It is a sign of spring and a highly anticipated time for those who enjoy wild food.

Q: Where can I find fiddleheads in Nova Scotia?

A: Fiddleheads can be found in the wild, particularly along rivers and streams in Nova Scotia. They can also be found at farmer’s markets and some grocery stores during the fiddlehead season.

Q: How do I identify fiddleheads?

A: Fiddleheads are the coiled, young fronds of the Matteuccia struthiopteris fern. They have a distinctive “fiddle” shape, hence the name. They are covered in a papery, brownish fuzz that should be removed before consuming.

Q: Are fiddleheads safe to eat?

A: Yes, fiddleheads are safe to eat when properly cooked. However, it is important to follow proper cooking methods to remove any potential toxins. Fiddleheads should be boiled for at least 10 minutes or steamed for at least 20 minutes to ensure their safety.

Q: How do I cook fiddleheads?

A: Before cooking fiddleheads, it is important to clean them thoroughly. Remove the papery fuzz by rubbing them gently or rinsing them under cold water. Boil the cleaned fiddleheads for at least 10 minutes, or steam them for at least 20 minutes. After cooking, dress them with vinegar or lemon juice, salt, and pepper to taste.

Q: Can I eat fiddleheads raw?

A: It is not recommended to consume fiddleheads raw. They may contain toxins that can cause illness if not properly cooked. Boiling or steaming fiddleheads ensures the toxins are eliminated and makes them safe to eat.

Q: What are some popular ways to prepare and enjoy fiddleheads?

A: Fiddleheads can be used in a variety of dishes. Some popular ways to prepare and enjoy fiddleheads include sautéing them with shallots and white wine, adding them to quiches or omelettes, or simply steaming them and serving them with salt and pepper.

Q: Can I freeze fiddleheads?

A: Yes, fiddleheads can be frozen for future use. It is recommended to blanch them in boiling water for 2 minutes, then immediately transfer them to an ice water bath to stop the cooking process. Once blanched, they can be stored in freezer bags or containers for up to a year.

Q: Are fiddleheads only found in Nova Scotia?

A: While fiddleheads are particularly abundant in Nova Scotia, they can be found in other parts of Eastern Canada as well, including New Brunswick and Quebec. Fiddleheads are also harvested and enjoyed in other regions across Canada.

Q: Where Can I Buy Fiddleheads

A: Fiddleheads can be purchased from many different sources depending on where you live. You can find them at farmers’ markets, specialty stores, health food stores, and online. They are also available fresh or frozen from some grocery stores. Additionally, you can buy them directly from Canadian fiddlehead farmers. Many of these farmers have their own websites where you can purchase fiddleheads and have them shipped directly to your door. If you are looking for a more sustainable option, you can also look for local foragers who will pick fiddleheads for you. Before buying fiddleheads, make sure to research where they are sourced from and how they were harvested, as picking fiddleheads from the wild can have a negative effect on the ecosystem.

Q: When Is Fiddlehead Season

A: Fiddlehead season typically starts in early spring, usually in late April or early May. This is when the fiddleheads are just beginning to emerge from the ground and can be harvested. The season usually lasts for several weeks, depending on the region, until late May or early June.

It is important to note that fiddlehead season is very short, so those interested in harvesting them should be prepared to act quickly. Additionally, it is important to be aware of the regulations in your area regarding the harvesting of fiddleheads. In some areas, it is illegal to harvest fiddleheads from the wild, so be sure to check the local laws before collecting them. Additionally, be sure to only harvest from areas where they are abundant and take only what you need. By doing so, you can ensure that the fiddlehead population is protected for future generations to enjoy.

Q: When Are Fiddleheads In Season?

A: Fiddleheads can typically be found in the early spring, usually from the months of April-June, depending on the region and climate. Depending on the area, some ferns may be harvested earlier than others. For example, in the northeastern United States, fiddleheads can be harvested in April and May, whereas in the Pacific Northwest, they can be found as early as March. When foraging for fiddleheads, be sure to look for the tightly coiled, green heads of the ostrich fern, as this is the most desired variety. Also, be sure to follow the laws and regulations in your region, as some areas may require permits for harvesting fiddleheads. Finally, be sure to cook the fiddleheads before consuming them, as they can be toxic when eaten raw.

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