Fiddleheads are the young, tightly-coiled leaves of the ostrich fern. Although all types of ferns technically have fiddleheads, only those from the ostrich fern are safe for consumption. They are considered a delicacy in areas where the ostrich fern grows natively, particularly in Maine. Edible fiddlehead ferns are identified by the papery brown scales that cover their coils. They can be harvested from the wild or purchased in spring for cooking.
Brush off the fiddlehead ferns to remove any dirt or external debris. Trim the "tail" of the fern so that it's the same length as the coil.
Immerse the fiddlehead ferns in a large bowl filled with cold water. Swirl the water with your hands and rub the ferns gently to remove the papery brown scales from the outside.
Remove the fiddleheads from the bowl. Rinse well under cool, running water and set them aside on paper towels or a clean cotton cloth.
Fill a saucepan about halfway full with water, add a dash of salt and bring to a rolling boil. Add the fiddlehead ferns to the water and boil steadily over medium-high heat for about 10 minutes, just until tender.
Remove the pan from the heat and strain by pouring the contents of the pan through a fine-mesh strainer. Serve the fiddlehead ferns immediately or refrigerate for up to two days.