Friday, August 1, 2008

edible parts of cattail plant.

A cattail is a wetlands plant! Or something you see waving on the rump of a feline. Both are probably in someway edible but you'll find the plant variety much more appealing and better available for consumption.

Typically we associate cattails with the brown "cigar' or "hot-dog looking thing" on the plant. This is the pollen bearing head or stamenate. Unknown or unnoticed to many are what precedes the thick brown and sometimes fluffy head. During midspring to early summer (up to about July 4th) you can find green cattails. These are the best eating and you cook the green heads by steaming them as you would asparagus, perhaps adding a little butter. Both the very top section and the lower section of the cattail head are edible and they are connected by a very dense inner shaft that reminds me of a hotdog stick. After cutting the cattail head up and steaming it you simply eat it as you would corn on the cob with the inner fibrous stick (or cob) remaining. After the very top portion begins to blossom bearing very yellow pollen (this is the male part of the plant) it no longer cooks well. Same goes for when the bottom (female part of plant) turns brown. It is still edible but not very appetizing.

The Pollen is very abundant and very edible! You harvest it by shaking the pollen-laden head into a bag or bottle. This pollen sells near $20 per pound in Asia for its supposed medicinal qualities! I can only vouch for its use as a flour additive and general soup thickener. It is relatively flavorless as you would expect flour to be. An no grinding needed!
Use the pollen to make a yellow pancakes!

If you follow down from the cattail head you can peel away the leaves which start at the very base of the plant. Doing this allows you to reveal a wonderful wild food called cattail heart. It is usually within two to three feet of the head and will readily break from the bottom plant portion once you have peeled all the leaves away. The heart is about 6-12 inches of very tender stalk that is very chewable and less fibrous than the rest of the plant stalk. As the season passes this becomes too fibrous to be enjoyable. Slice it up into a salad!