What Are the Most Surprising Health Benefits of Fiddleheads?

Spring season is a great time of year to discover various vegetables that are only available for a limited time. One of these is fiddleheads, also known as fiddlehead ferns. This is a spring vegetable, sought after during its available season. Its health benefits are something to look out for. Why? Because there is so much more to them than meets the eye! If you want to learn more about this amazing vegetable, feel free to keep reading this article.

What Are Fiddleheads?

Fiddleheads, or fiddlehead ferns, are tender, young, and tightly furled shoots that are a new growth. They are a part of the fern family plant, commonly the ostrich fern, and are named for their unique resemblance to the violin head. These young fiddlehead shoots are popular in many places around the world, but specifically the United States and Canada, where their short, late-spring season fascinates many food enthusiasts.

Scientifically known as the Matteuccia struthiopteris, the ostrich fern variety actually belongs to the Onocleaceae series, which is a unique flowerless plant species. Ostrich ferns are the bearer of fiddleheads and are actually the most common of all edible fiddlehead ferns available in North America.

During the spring season, a number of fiddlehead shoots erupt all along the length of the rhizome, which spreads along the big fern plant. The harvesting season for the fiddleheads is so short, it must be done even before the shoots unfurl. Each of the shoots is tightly curled, deep green color, measures about 4 centimeters in diameter and reaches about 10 to 12 centimeters in height. They taste similar to asparagus or green beans, but with a unique crunch.

Nutritional Facts of Fiddleheads, or Fiddlehead Fern

One hundred (100) grams of fiddleheads has the following nutritional content:

NutrientNutritional ValuePercentage per RDA
Cholesterol0 milligram0%
Total fat0.40 grams2%
Protein4.55 grams8%
Carbohydrates5.54 grams4%
Energy34 Kcal1.7%
Vitamin C26.6 milligrams44%
Vitamin A3617 IU120.5%
Thiamin0.020 milligrams1.5%
Riboflavin0.210 milligrams16%
Niacin4.980 milligrams31%
Potassium370 milligrams8%
Sodium1 milligram<1%
Zinc0.83 milligrams7.5%
Selenium0.7 micrograms1%
Manganese0.510 milligrams22%
Magnesium34 milligrams8.5%
Iron1.31 milligrams16%
Copper0.320 milligrams35.5%
Calcium32 milligrams3%
Carotene-α261 µg
Carotene-β2040 µg


Fiddleheads: Selection and Storage

The vegetable is available at some farmer markets from late March until June. When choosing fiddlehead ferns, look for a deep or bright green colored fern. It should also be firm and tightly coiled; avoid buying the bigger and unfurled ferns, since they are unappetizing and tough to eat. The scales of the vegetable are a bit bitter and need to be removed before using it to cook.

Fiddleheads should be used when they are at their freshest. Otherwise, store and wrap them in plastic paper and place them in the refrigerator to maintain their humidity. This will keep them fresh for 2 to 3 days.

Health Benefits of Fiddleheads

The health benefits of fiddleheads are staggering, benefitting the overall health. Some of these are as follows:

  • Helps keep your eyes healthy: fiddleheads are rich in vitamin A, thus they are beneficial in improving eyesight and preventing macular degeneration and night blindness, which tend to develop as we grow older.
  • Contains rich levels of antioxidants: the beta-carotene antioxidants in fiddleheads help reduce the risk of cancer. Furthermore, researchers suggest that increasing your consumption of beta-carotene helps reduce the risk of lung cancer. This is one of the best health benefits of fiddleheads.
  • Helps the body create new healthy red blood cells: this is beneficial for those who are anemic. The copper and iron content of the vegetable are what makes it beneficial creating new red blood cells for the body.
  • Rich in manganese: manganese is beneficial in controlling blood sugar and controlling the thyroid function. In fact, 26% of your daily dose of manganese is present in one hundred grams of fiddlehead ferns.
  • Contributes to the maintenance of a healthy blood pressure: the rich potassium content of  fiddleheads is helps maintaining good blood pressure. Moreover, it also helps lower high blood pressure.
  • Helps in weight loss: there are 34 calories per serving of fiddleheads. Furthermore, the dietary fiber inhibits the release of hunger hormones, which trick the brain into thinking it’s already time to eat.

Fiddleheads are really amazing, aren’t they? Even though they only grow during the spring, they are worth a try!


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