Buttered Hart’s Tongue Fiddleheads

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Eating Hart’s Tongue Fern (Phyllitis scolopendrium) is a bit of an unknown. There is nothing written about it in any of the currently published wild food books.

However Marcus Harrison – the UK’s leading academic researcher into wild edible plants – mentioned to me that it had been eaten in Britain in the past, but as a pottage herb. Which part of the plant was used is unknown.

Some ferns contain carcinogens, I can find no record of this being the case with Hart’s Tongue Fern. Ferns also contain an enzyme called thiaminase which causes Vitamin B1 deficiency, however cooking destroys the enzyme.

This is a wild edible that can be used two ways:

  1. As a seasonal snack consumed in small quantities by the gastro-forager.
  2. As a survival food, if/when push comes to shove.

I include this recipe because I don’t have a problem tasting and researching very esoteric plants, esoteric in the sense that they are ‘hidden’ or ‘unknown’ by most people.

You consume this plant very much at your own risk! You have been warned! 

Ferns are carcinogenic, unless processed properly. Only experienced foragers should even attempt this recipe.

Fiddlehead Fern Recipe Ingredients

  • 2 handfuls of Hart’s Tongue fiddleheads
  • 1 knob of butter & a glug of olive oil
  • Sea salt

Fiddlehead Fern Recipe Instructions

  1. Gently boil the Hart’s Tongue fiddleheads for 5 minutes, then drain. This hopefully removes any potential toxins.
  2. Melt the butter with the olive oil and gently fry the fiddleheads for about 30-60 seconds.
  3. Serve with crushed sea salt to taste.

Serves: 1


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  1. Hi Robin,

    We talked about this in your foraging walk in Dorset a few years ago, but it is traditional in Japan to eat Fern shoots (including bracken) in the spring. We remove toxin by soaking the young shoots in baking soda dissolved in boiling water overnight.

    • Yes, I remember, Mariko. I just have to be extra cautious as sometimes folks misread, or don’t read fully my content. Sadly, it’s a sign of the 3-second attention culture we live in. “Fools rush in” and all that. Hope you are doing well 🙂


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