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!


Anonymous said...

Wow, that was so informative. I am hoping you will give me a lesson and we can cook, slice, chop and chew on a bit of it up here. So interesting...thanks!
Mom T

fisher said...

Wow, it's about time for that info!! Thanks for putting this in. I am going to try it next spring. You are such a fountain of knowledge.

Megan said...

Emma looks like she's saying, "I can't watch!" I love it. Awesome to have the info with the photos too. You're the man, Joel!

Jodi said...

One more thing... the root can be cooked and eaten as a potato.

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Anonymous said...

Hi, I am a seventh grader from Chicago doing a research paper. I am looking for a place in Chicago where I can possibly find cattails. I need to also find a recipe that includes cattails themselves, not cattail pollen(though it can be included). Any suggestions? Thanks in advance.


Lisa Pedersen said...

We just ate a wonderful meal that included cattail on the cob and purslane and cattail shoot salad! Check it out on "Small Purse, Big Garden" (thats my blog) ps. keep up the great foraging! I love to read about other families adventures!!!

Anonymous said...

Don't forget about the roots. They are edible also. You can squeeze the white liquid out into water, drain the water, and dry the white stuff and it makes for a very good thickener.

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