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Fiddlehead Ferns: Types, Health Benefits & Risks

Fiddlehead ferns or fiddlehead greens are the furled fronds of a young and tender fern plant. They grow in the early spring and are harvested before the frond is opened [1] . Fiddlehead ferns are packed with health benefits and contain a high nutritive value [2] .

fiddlehead ferns

Types Of Fiddlehead Ferns

1. Ostrich fern - This type of fern is commonly eaten in British Colombia, Alaska, South and North California, and Newfoundland. It grows about 3-6 ft high [3] .

2. Cinnamon fern - This type of fiddlehead fern grows in sandy soil and tastes delicious when cooked [4] .

3. Lady fern - This fern grows in damp conifer and deciduous woodlands, up to a height of 2-3 ft. This type of fiddlehead fern contains 3-7 fronds.

4. Bracken fern - This fern contains a carcinogen called ptaquiloside which is destroyed while cooking. It is mostly eaten in North America.

Nutritional Value Of Fiddlehead Fern

100 g of raw fiddlehead fern contain 88.68 g water, 34 kcal (energy) and the following nutrients.

  • 4.55 g protein
  • 0.40 g total lipid (fat)
  • 5.54 g carbohydrate
  • 32 mg calcium
  • 1.31 mg iron
  • 34 mg magnesium
  • 101 mg phosphorus
  • 370 mg potassium
  • 1 mg sodium
  • 0.83 mg zinc
  • 26.6 mg vitamin C
  • 0.020 mg thiamin
  • 0.210 mg riboflavin
  • 4.980 mg niacin
  • 3617 IU vitamin A
fiddlehead ferns nutrition

Health Benefits Of Fiddlehead Fern

1. Improves anaemia

Fiddlehead fern is a good source of iron, a mineral which helps increase your red blood cell count. Most of the body's iron is found in the red blood cells of your blood called haemoglobin, a protein that carries oxygen to other organs. The fern also contains vitamin C which helps in better iron absorption [5] .

2. Promotes heart health

Fiddlehead fern contains potassium and niacin; both these nutrients contribute to heart health. Potassium helps in stabilizing blood pressure as high blood pressure leads to stroke by damaging the brain's blood vessels [6] . Niacin (vitamin B3) on the other hand boosts good cholesterol and lowers triglyceride levels [7] .

3. Prevents cancer

The high antioxidant content in fiddlehead fern has the ability to prevent cancers. Antioxidants like beta-carotene, vitamin A and vitamin C protect the cells from cancer-causing free radicals and stabilize the free radicals, thereby lowering cancer risk [8] .

4. Boosts immunity

Fiddlehead ferns are a good source of vitamin C, a water-soluble antioxidant that strengthens the immune system by fighting your body against infections. Vitamin C aids the body to develop resistance against infections like bacteria, virus and protozoa and prevent them from attacking the body [9] .

5. Promotes eye health

Fiddlehead fern is an excellent source of vitamin A; this vitamin is known for improving eyesight and preventing night blindness. It is also known for lowering the risk of macular degeneration, glaucoma, poor night vision, dry eyes and cataracts [10] .

fiddlehead ferns health benefits infographic

6. Cures migraine

Fiddlehead fern contains riboflavin, also known as vitamin B2, which is effective in treating migraine headaches. It plays a major role in the functioning of the mitochondria which is known as the powerhouse of a cell. According to some researchers, migraines can occur due to the dysfunction of mitochondria in some individuals [11] .

7. Helps in weight loss

Fiddlehead ferns can be extremely helpful in losing weight due to the presence of fibre. Dietary fibre is a powerful appetite suppressant and it also takes a longer time to digest. This keeps you feeling full for a longer period of time and your calorie intake is reduced [12] .

Preparation & Storage Of Fiddlehead Ferns

While preparing fiddlehead ferns, it is necessary to scrape off any brown scales from the vegetable and wash it under running cold water. Fiddlehead ferns should be stored fresh. It should be kept in the refrigerator, wrapped in a plastic sheet. It should be consumed within 2 to 3 days.

fiddlehead ferns types

How To Eat Fiddlehead Ferns

  • The vegetable is cooked as a side dish to be eaten with rotis or parathas.
  • The vegetable can be consumed boiled, stir-fried or baked.
  • It can also be eaten in the form of pickles and soups.

Precautions To Take

  • Fiddlehead ferns shouldn't be consumed raw as it may upset your stomach and it tastes bitter.
  • If you consume excess male fern extract or powder, it can cause eye problems and muscle weakness.
  • If the vegetable isn't stored and cooked properly, it may cause food poisoning.

Fiddlehead Fern Quiche Recipe
[13]

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup milk
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup fiddleheads cooked and chopped 
  • 2 tablespoon chopped leeks
  • 1 tablespoon chopped parsley
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ cup chopped onion
  • 1 partially baked pie crust about 9 or 10 inches

Method:

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  • Beat the eggs and add milk, chopped fiddlehead, leeks, parsley, onion and salt. 
  • Pour the mixture into the partially baked pie crust.
  • Bake for 40 minutes.
  • Allow it to rest for 10 minutes and serve.
View Article References
  1. [1] ADERKAS, P. V., & GREEN, P. E. J. (1986). Leaf development of the ostrich fern Matteuccia struthiopteris (L.) Todaro. Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society, 93(3), 307–321.
  2. [2] DYKEMAN, B. W., & CUMMING, B. G. (1985). In vitro propagation of the ostrich fern (Matteuccia struthiopteris).Canadian journal of plant science,65(4), 1025-1032.
  3. [3] Von Aderkas, P. (1984). Economic history of ostrich fern, Matteuccia struthiopteris, the edible fiddlehead.Economic Botany,38(1), 14-23.
  4. [4] Hollingsworth, S. N., Andres, E. A., & Greer, G. K. (2012). Pheromonal interactions among gametophytes of Osmundastrum cinnamomeum and the origins of antheridiogen systems in leptosporangiate ferns.International Journal of Plant Sciences,173(4), 382-390.
  5. [5] Lynch, S. R., & Cook, J. D. (1980). Interaction of vitamin C and iron.Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences,355(1), 32-44.
  6. [6] Krishna, G. G. (1990). Effect of potassium intake on blood pressure.Journal of the American Society of Nephrology,1(1), 43-52.
  7. [7] Mani, P., & Rohatgi, A. (2015). Niacin Therapy, HDL Cholesterol, and Cardiovascular Disease: Is the HDL Hypothesis Defunct?.Current atherosclerosis reports,17(8), 43.
  8. [8] Koshimizu, K., Ohigashi, H., Tokuda, H., Kondo, A., & Yamaguchi, K. (1988).Screening of edible plants against possible anti-tumor promoting activity. Cancer Letters, 39(3), 247–257.
  9. [9] Hemilä H. (2017). Vitamin C and Infections.Nutrients,9(4), 339.
  10. [10] Rasmussen, H. M., & Johnson, E. J. (2013). Nutrients for the aging eye.Clinical interventions in aging,8, 741-748.
  11. [11] Sherwood, M., & Goldman, R. D. (2014). Effectiveness of riboflavin in pediatric migraine prevention.Canadian family physician Medecin de famille canadien,60(3), 244-246.
  12. [12] Howarth, N. C., Saltzman, E., & Roberts, S. B. (2009).Dietary Fiber and Weight Regulation. Nutrition Reviews, 59(5), 129–139.
  13. [13] https://bangordailynews.com/2011/05/23/health/the-benefits-of-eating-fiddleheads/

Story first published: Thursday, February 14, 2019, 15:08 [IST]
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