Seasonal Chef: More Good News About Spring: Fiddleheads Have Arrived!


Spring has finally locked in for us in the Northeast. For me I know we’re solid when ramps and fiddleheads are in the markets. Fiddlehead ferns or fiddlehead greens are the furled fronds of a young fern and used as a vegetable. They are found in clusters on the banks of streams, rivers or brooks and harvested in late-April and May before the frond has opened and reached its full height. Fiddlehead ferns range from 1 to 2 inches in diameter and are harvested when they are 1 to 2 inches off the ground. Ostrich fiddlehead ferns, typically found in the Northeast, have a brown, papery cover over the head, and the stems have a characteristic U-shaped groove.

Fiddlehead ferns can be found in specialty stores and farmers markets. Choose fiddleheads that are firm and brightly colored with no yellow or mold spots. You can store fiddleheads in the refrigerator for up to two days tightly wrapped.

Fiddleheads have a flavor similar to asparagus and must be cooked before eating. Resist the urge to bite into one raw as they can make you sick. You can blanch, saute, steam or roast them. Rinse your fiddleheads well under cool water and gently remove the brown papery covering if present, and nip off any brown ends from the stem. They can be tossed in salads or mixed with pasta.

Micro greens and flowers from Lani's Farm

This week I decided to “gild the spring lily” and combine my fiddleheads with the ramps I wrote about last week, fresh herbs and micro-greens. This past weekend I stopped by the Larchmont Farmers Market and picked up some ramps from the Gaia’s Breath Farm table, fiddleheads from Newgate Farm and these pretty broccoli raab flowers and micro greens from Lani’s Farm.

Ramps from Gaia's Breath Farm

After a quick chop of my ramps

ramps and lemon zest

I combined them with a little olive oil and lemon zest

"Cooking" ramps over pasta.

then covered with hot pasta. The heat from the pasta takes the edge off the ramps, ever so slightly.

Spring salad with fiddleheads and ramps.

To that I added fresh mint, parsley, fresh lemon juice, salt and pepper.

Boiling fiddleheads

Meanwhile in a small pot of salted water I cooked the fiddleheads for about 7 minutes, then drained and cooled them down.

Easy Spring Pasta Salad - Seasonal Chef

Toss it all together for a gorgeous spring salad, that could not be easier. Once the fiddleheads and ramps disappear you can easily substitute asparagus and scallions in this dish. For now, give the fiddleheads a try before they disappear until next spring! Click this link to see the recipe for: Easy Spring Pasta Salad.

If you are out and about this weekend I will be demoing at the Chappaqua Farmers Market, going outdoors for the season!

Buon Appetito!

One year ago: Sautéed Spring Raad with Black Cod and Farro
Two years ago: Strawberry-Rhubarb Crumble


Easy Spring Pasta Salad

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 20 minutes

Total Time: 30 minutes

Yield: 6 - 8 servings

Easy Spring Pasta Salad

This is an easy pasta salad to put together and can be perfect on it’s own or with fish or grilled chicken.


  • ½ lb fiddlehead ferns
  • 1 box bowtie pasta
  • Kosher salt
  • 6 ramps, cleaned and sliced thin
  • Zest and juice of 2 lemons, separated
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • ¼ cup fresh parsley, minced
  • ¼ cup fresh mint, minced
  • Ground black pepper
  • 1 to 2 cups of micro-greens or arugula
  • Ricotta salata, optional


  1. Clean and rinse the fiddleheads, gently removing the brown papery bits and nip the ends if brown. Boil for 5-7 minutes in salted water, until tender. Drain and rinse under cool water to stop the cooking. Set aside.
  2. Cook the pasta according to the package instructions to al dente, in salted water.
  3. While the pasta cooks slice the ramps thinly and place in the bottom of a large bowl along with the lemon zest. When the pasta is done drain, but don’t rinse!, and place over the ramps. Drizzle with 3-4 tablespoons of olive oil. Let it sit for a few minutes. The heat will “cook” the ramps underneath.
  4. Add the fiddleheads, minced herbs, lemon juice, a couple of good pinches of salt and pepper and toss well.
  5. Add 1-2 cups of micro-greens or arugula and toss to combine. Taste for seasoning and add salt, pepper and/or olive oil. If desired, a few nice shavings of ricotta salata!


Once fiddlehead and ramp season are behind us you can substitute the fiddleheads with asparagus, and the ramps with scallions. Cut your asparagus in 1½ inch pieces to match the size of the pasta.


About Author

Seasonal Chef blogger Maria Reina comes to the world of food as a third career, spending a great portion of her adult life in the field of Human Resources. With her private company Bella Cucina Maria she is a personal chef, caterer and recreational cooking class teacher in Westchester. She's an avid food television watcher and cookbook collector, always looking for a new take on a traditional dish. In her free time she loves hanging out at local farmer's markets, chatting it up with the farmers and doing cooking demos with their seasonal ingredients. In addition to her blog, which is loaded with easy recipes, you can follow her on Facebook (Bella Cucina Maria), Twitter (Bellacucinam), Instagram (Bellacucinam) and Pinterest (Bellacucinam).

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