Dilly Fiddleheads Credit: Sandy Oliver

You might be lucky enough to know where to find fiddlehead ferns growing this time of year. Or you might be lucky enough to have a neighbor drop off a bag of them, which happened here at my house; a blessing not to be taken for granted.

A few years ago, I acquired a clump of fiddleheads from a friend who has them growing in her yard. I established a small patch which increases a little every year, but hasn’t achieved harvestable proportions yet. So I greeted a gift of the dark green, tightly curled little fiddleheads with considerable joy.

A number of years ago, I pickled some and they graced the table for months. This year, I thought I would try a different pickle recipe, one based on my dilly beans. Dill plants volunteer themselves in my garden year after year because I always let some go to seed in place.

Little green feathery plants about six inches tall dot the garden right now, a perfect size for harvesting. No seed heads yet, of course, nor green seed heads which pack a terrific dill flavor in pickles.

But each year I also harvest plenty of the seeds to use for dill flavor and that’s how I seasoned the fiddleheads.

I packed the fiddleheads raw, and poured the hot brine over them, just as I do with green beans. In the processing, they shrank a little and floated up, but settled back down when they cooled.

The brine was a little cloudy though the ferns were clean. So they don’t look gorgeous enough to enter in the county fair, but they took a seal and tasted mighty good when I opened them up.

Dilly beans are yummy with a grilled cheese sandwich. So are dilly fiddleheads.

Dilled Fiddlehead Ferns

Yields 6 pints


3 ¾ cups water

2 ¼ cup vinegar

1/3 cup pickling salt


6 cloves garlic

6 teaspoons dill seed

12 cups of washed fiddlehead ferns with long stems trimmed short

Set your canner up with water and bring it to a boil.

For the brine, mix together the water, vinegar and salt and bring to a boil.

Put one garlic clove and a teaspoon of dill seed in each clean sterilized pint jar.

Pack each jar with the fiddleheads, shaking the jar to make the fiddleheads settle.

Pour the hot brine over the fiddleheads, allowing a half-inch headspace, put on the lid and ring, and put into the canner.

Process ten minutes.

Remove and cool, and check to make sure each lid is sealed.

Watch: Cleaning fiddleheads in the Piscataquis River

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Sandy Oliver, Taste Buds

Sandy Oliver Sandy is a freelance food writer with the column Taste Buds appearing weekly since 2006 in the Bangor Daily News, and regular columns in Maine Boats, Homes, and Harbors magazine and The Working...