Fiddler on the Plate

Wild edibles can be elusive creatures; hiding where you least expect them, and absent where they aught to be found. A hunt worth pursuing, it just takes a bit more effort to get dinner on the table if foraging is involved. Luckily, here in New England, the forests are ripe with fiddlehead ferns, and I was determined to find them. Hundreds of ferns spring up every year in my own backyard, but alas, they’re not the tasty sort that you’d want to consume. Clearly, it was time to search farther afield, as there was no chance I would miss out on these short-lived seasonal specialties for yet another year. An epic journey ensued, or a wild goose chase, depending on who you ask, with over 50 miles traveled. Out into the vast, untamed natural beauty of… Whole Foods in New York City.

Yes, I know, I’ve lost all “foodie” cred for admitting that, but I just couldn’t find those suckers anywhere. Not by poking through the swamps or shopping in any local markets- There’s good reason I always miss out on fiddlehead ferns every spring. Still, this was the next best thing to foraging in the great outdoors, and the bounty still ended up being free. Our gracious cashier didn’t know how to price them, readily admitted this problem, and handed over the goods free of charge. Gotta love that kind of luck.

Most important to any dish utilizing these delicate wild vegetables is to keep it simple, and allow those ferns to shine. Taking inspiration from their coiled shape, I thought of shrimp scampi, minus the seafood of course. Though it’s hardly a revolutionary recipe, it was a delightfully fast, satisfying dish, which would pair beautifully with just about any protein accompaniment, be it bean or wheat. Garlicky strands of noodles intertwined with the stars of the show, brightened by a hit of lemon and fresh herbs, it simply screams “spring!” Fiddlehead ferns do have a sadly short window of availability, so don’t wait; go and “forage” some for yourself, before it’s too late!

Yield: Makes 3 – 4 Side Dish Servings

Fiddlehead Scampi

Fiddlehead Scampi

Think shrimp scampi, minus the seafood. Garlicky strands of noodles intertwined with tender fiddlehead ferns, brightened by a hit of lemon and fresh herbs, it simply screams “spring!”

Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes


  • 1/2 Pound Fiddlehead Ferns
  • 1/2 Pound Angel Hair, Spaghetti, or Linguini
  • 3 Tablespoons Olive Oil, Divided
  • 1 Shallot, Finely Diced
  • 2 Cloves Garlic, Minced
  • 2 Tablespoons Mirin (or White Wine plus 1 Teaspoon Agave)
  • 1 Tablespoon Lemon Juice
  • 3 – 4 Tablespoons Fresh Parsley, Chopped
  • 1/8 Teaspoon Cayenne Pepper
  • Salt, to Taste
  • Zest of 1 Lemon


  1. First, prep your fiddleheads by removing any particularly long ends and remaining papery “scales.” Wash well, particularly if you did find them yourself out in the wild. Cook in boiling water for a full 10 minutes, drain thoroughly, and immediately plunge them into a bath of ice water to arrest the cooking process. Once thoroughly chilled, drain once more and set aside.
  2. Meanwhile, cook the pasta according to the instructions on the package, and drain well. Toss with 1 tablespoon of the oil to prevent the strands from sticking, and set aside.
  3. In a medium skillet, heat the remaining oil and toss in the prepped shallot and garlic. Saute over medium heat for about 5 – 7 minutes, until softened and lightly browned.
  4. Add in the mirin and lemon juice, simmering for about 2 minutes to allow the alcohol to cook and mellow a bit. Add in the cooked noodles and fiddleheads, tossing to incorporate with the sauce, along with the parsley, cayenne, and salt. Cook for 1 – 3 more minutes until piping hot, and finally top with the lemon zest.


Naturally, those fickle ferns can be a bit tough to find early in the season, so I'm happy to report that it's just as delicious with your garden variety zucchini, too. Fava beans or artichoke hearts would be equally delicious substitutions, verdant and elegant, ideal for tangling around al dente strands of pasta.

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Nutrition Information:



Serving Size:


Amount Per Serving: Calories: 287Total Fat: 11gSaturated Fat: 2gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 9gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 157mgCarbohydrates: 42gFiber: 5gSugar: 6gProtein: 6g

All nutritional information presented within this site are intended for informational purposes only. I am not a certified nutritionist and any nutritional information on should only be used as a general guideline. This information is provided as a courtesy and there is no guarantee that the information will be completely accurate. Even though I try to provide accurate nutritional information to the best of my ability, these figures should still be considered estimates.

28 thoughts on “Fiddler on the Plate

  1. I remember foraging for fiddle heads with my granny when I was little and she always boiled them until they were grey and tasteless and I haven’t eaten them since. I think if my granny had prepared them in a recipe like yours I would have enjoyed them. You’ve encouraged me to give them another go. They are the veal of ferns.

  2. I’ve never had fiddleheads before…I saw them a couple years ago at a local market but didn’t pick them up (I had no idea what do to with them back then!). Since then I’ve discovered a few different recipes using them that sound delicious, but I haven’t seen them again at the market! Funny how life is, isn’t it? Next time I find some I’m grabbing them! :) They look absolutely perfect in your scampi!

  3. This is a really accessible recipe for an ingredient that would seem “out there” to a non-gourmet or a non-vegan. It looks both simple and elegant…oh, and yummy, too!

  4. Wow, this takes me back. I moved to Los Angeles from Maine 10 years ago, but fondly remember the fiddleheads popping up every spring. Just maybe my local Whole Foods would stock these…

  5. Truly gorgeous! Up until now, I thought a “fiddlehead” was a deragatory term! ;-P This looks really delicious (pasta + lemony sauce= yum) and the photo really shows the fiddlehead’s natural beauty. Love it!

  6. I’ve never had fiddleheads before and now that I think about it I’ve never even heard about them but the pasta looks pretty good! I’ll try to find them

  7. Those fiddlehead ferns are so pretty:) I love wild edibles (their time here is now over until next winter) but I am not sure we have those pretty things here. And thanks for the agar agar noodle tip:)

    1. They taste kind of like tender, coiled asparagus, in my opinion- Which is to say, amazing and delicious! Unfortunately no, you can’t eat them raw, and you’d probably get sick if you did. That’s why they’re so thoroughly boiled in this recipe.

  8. I always get my fiddleheads at whole foods as well :P And I think last time, I got them for free also. I came THISCLOSE to getting ramps there for free this weekend but hte girl charged them as scallions when she couldn’t figure them out. Still a discount.

    Love the simplicity of this dish! Really lets the fiddleheads shine!

  9. Oh, I’m so envious of all this talk of fiddlehead-foraging! These utterly, utterly don’t exist in Australia. In fact, I remember taking a photo of them in a grocery store on one of my first days exploring the States in 2007; such was my wonder at their crazy appearance.

    P.S. I’m very upset at the lack of actual Fiddler on the Roof talk in this post, though. I’ve always loved that musical, and it has an even stronger spot in my heart after my backstage/orchestra pit adventures in Florida!

  10. I think I had fiddleheads once when I was a child, at a friend’s house. Her parents were always making me try “weird” things (to me, anyway)… but I haven’t had them since. I’m sure my grown up palate would be much more appreciative!

  11. I never heard of these little green guys, they are so nice to look at. I totally agree that since nature made them so scroll-like (it made me think of my cello actually) one should not cook them too much, but simply prepare so that they be eatable but still look like they have been freshly picked. Success here!
    You are lucky they did not charge you for them. As I never saw any of those in France, I guess it is expensive, but I may completely wrong?!

  12. i saw a lot of these this weekend at pike place mkt.(seattle) and was wondering if i should pick them up and add to my bursting veggie bag.. but didnt know what iwould do with them, so decided to skip till i knew something more abt them:) and here u r.. i’ll head back to the market once i finish up this veggie stash. they do look a bit creepy when all piled up together in the bin:)

  13. Foraging at Whole Foods and getting them free is wonderful. There is a market in Exeter that carries them occasionally. If I see them on a menu I order them. I’m always on the lookout for spring ramps as well.

  14. I’ve seen blogs with fiddle heads, but never seen it…and sure would love to try. This pasta dish looks so tasty and pretty…awesome picture Hannah.
    Hope you are having a great week :)

  15. I’m going to have to look for fiddleheads at the local farmers market. I think I’ve seen them there before but like a lot of people, didn’t quite know what to do with them. They look delicious! :-)

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