A Trick for Cleaning Fiddleheads

Spring has sprung and that means we’ll soon be cooking fiddleheads in our kitchen! I used to avoid fiddleheads because the cleaning was so tedious (there are a lot of loose ‘bits’ of fern that most pick through to remove before cooking) but that changed when we came up with this idea for cleaning fiddleheads.

There are two parts to cleaning (three if you’ve foraged them):

  1. If they are foraged, many will have an kind of husk on them that is easy to remove though it`s a lot of work.  It`s remains affect you in step 3 below.  There`s not too many shortcuts for this step.
  2. Cutting a fresh cut on the stem.  This adds to the physical appearance of the jar and I believe it has to have a positive impact on taste (though you can treat that as a rumour).
  3. Removing the loose bits of fern that cling on to the fiddleheads increases flavor (as some of the `bits`may be dried or worse) and certainly creates a clearer brine.  This also applies to non-pickled fiddleheads of course too!

Our friend Margaret recently told me of people placing their crop on top of an old bed sheet and tossing them in a light wind.  Great idea but I was flying solo and had not wind.

Our solution to speed things up:

The technique:

  1. Place cooling rack (we use this one for preserves) on top of a pot with a small to medium amount of fiddleheads in it.
  2. Turn pot and rack upside down.
  3. Shake well over sink
  4. Flip everything over, give a rinse (even better if you can rinse on the rack – ours covers the entire sink so they drain right through.

It`s fantastically fast and removes a lot of extra work – any other tips or tricks out there?

  1. Pingback: Pickled Fiddleheads…Lessons Learned… « Well Preserved

  2. I find the best may to clean fiddelheads is to fill the bottom of a potato basket and dip it into a brook while shaking and twisting the basket as it is submerged. I cleaned 50 to 60 lbs in about 25 mins or so. Works like a charm. When you have a couple hundread lbs, you need a quick method, and this works great!!!

  3. i use a minnow trap which is basically a wire basket that breaks open in the center. place them in the trap,then shake and tumble them. then place them in a cooler or large bin. place a leaf blower at a distance that provides a good amount of air without blowing the fiddleheads away and agitate them with your hand to keep them moving as the air whisks away the brown husks and other unwanted material. no water required so they keep fresh longer. i cleaned a 7 lb batch in under 5 minutes. any other wire basket would do the trick also. happy picking !