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Author Topic: The Cattail - Wild Edible Plants  (Read 8911 times)

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The Cattail - Wild Edible Plants
« on: November 09, 2009, 09:14:29 PM »

The Cattail - Best of the Wild Edible Plants

Cattails are plants in the Typha genus, which has about 11 species. They are flowering plants found in wetlands primarily of the northern hemisphere. The plant has spongy leaves with horizontal root-like stems called rhizomes whose stalks grow up to 7 feet tall. Cattails have a variety of parts that are edible, including the rhizomes, underground stems, the young shoots and the flower spike. Here's how to cook cattails.


Step 1

Harvest the rhizomes when they ripen in the fall and winter. They may be peeled and cooked just like potatoes but contain 10 times the starch.   
Step 2

Make flour with the rhizomes. Mash them into a pulp, boil and allow them to dry. The dried pulp can then be ground into pure white flour.

Step 3
Pick the young shoots in the early spring and peel them. They are called Cossack asparagus because of their asparagus-like taste when cooked. They can be boiled just like asparagus or stir-fried. They also may be added to soups or pasta dishes and taste more like a cucumber when eaten raw.

Step 4

Boil or steam the immature flower spikes or "kittentails" in early summer and eat them like corn on the cob. They actually taste like corn when prepared this way and are also frequently pickled.

Step 5

Collect the pollen from the mature flower in early summer and use it as a thickener or add it to other flours as a protein and vitamin supplement.

How to Eat Cattails


Step 1
Open up the leaves in early spring to reveal the shoots. Once the fibrous green are peeled away, the white meat is visible. It can be eaten fresh of steamed. You can dice it or slice it to add to salads, too.

Step 2
Scrape the slime from those shoots onto a cookie sheet and let it dry in the sunshine. This starchy substance is a good soup thickener and can be stored in its dry form for a long time.

Step 3
Later in the year, when the flowering stalk grows, you can steam the green male flowering tip and eat it. It's been recommended that you dip it in butter, because it can be rather dry.

Step 4
After the pollen develops, you can shake it off and add it to flour to make pancakes, muffins, cookies or other baked goods. The pollen can be encapsulated and taken as a supplement, similar to the popular bee pollen energy pills hat are popular.

Step 5
After the flowers have gone to seed, parch the fluffy stuff so that the seeds get nice and toasted. Sprinkle them on salads or eat by the hand as a tasty toasted nutty snack.

Step 6
Dig up the root masses in the winter and scrub them clean. Smash them into a pulp and soak in water to extract the starch for a high energy soup thickener



Cattail-Wild Rice Pilaf
This recipe can be made with brown rice, but the wild rice adds a special dimension to it.
1 cup dry wild rice  (4 cups cooked)
2 Tbsp sesame oil
½ cup chopped green onion
2 cups cattail shoots, sliced (about 30 cattails)
2 tsp salt
½ cup slivered almonds
1.  Cook the wild rice until tender.
2.  Sautee onion and cattail shoots in sesame oil until tender and translucent.
3.  Mix the rice and the sautéd cattail shoots and onion together.
4.  Add salt and slivered almonds.
5.  Serve hot.
Cattail Wild-Rice Soup
1 cup dry wild rice  (4 cups cooked)
2 Tbsp sesame oil
½ cup chopped green onion
2 cups cattail shoots, sliced (about 30 cattails)
2 tsp salt
1.  Cook the wild rice until tender.
2.  In a heavy-bottomed soup pot sauté onion and cattail shoots in sesame oil until tender and translucent.
3.  Add the cooked wild rice, salt and 4 cups of chicken broth or other soup stock of choice.
4.  Simmer together for 15-20 minutes and serve.
Cat-on-the-Cob with Garlic Butter
30-40 cattail flowerheads, peeled
Garlic butter:
½  cup unsalted butter
½ cup olive oil
½  teaspoon salt
12 garlic cloves, crushed
1 cup freshly chopped wild greens  (or parsley or other fresh garden herbs)
Make garlic butter in a food processor by whipping the butter, oil, salt, fresh garlic and parsley together until smooth.
Note:  If using salted butter, eliminate the salt from the recipe.
The olive oil makes the butter nice and creamy and spreadable, even after refrigerating.  I like to make a batch of this to keep handy in the fridge.  You can also make a larger batch ahead to freeze in small containers when the greens are in season.
1.  Boil cattail flowerheads in water for 10 minutes
2.  Make garlic butter in a food processor by whipping the butter, salt, fresh garlic and parsley together until smooth.
3.  Drain the cattail flowerheads and slather them generously with the garlic butter.
4.  Eat them just like miniature corn on the cobs.
Cattail Casserole
3 cups cattail flowerbuds, scraped off the “cobs”  (about 40 flowerheads)
1 egg
¼ tsp nutmeg
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp black pepper
½ cup milk
1 cup soft breadcrumbs
1 cup grated cheese
1.  Cook cattail flowerheads in boiling water for 5-10 minutes.
2.  Scrape the flowerbuds off the cob to make 3 cups.
3.  Beat egg together with spices, milk and breadcrumbs.
4.  Combine cattail flowers with the egg mixture.
5.  In a greased bread pan or small casserole dish, spread half of cattail mixture on the bottom.
6.  Add half of the grated cheese, spread the rest of the cattail mixture over, and top with the rest of the grated cheese.
7.  Bake at 350° until lightly browned, about 30 minutes.
Cattail Flower Refrigerator Pickles
This recipe is adapted from Wildman Steve Brill’s book “Identifying and Harvesting Edible and Medicinal Plants, who got it from his friends Dean and Gabi.
Enough cattail flowerheads to tightly fill a quart jar, about 30 or 40
4 garlic cloves, peeled
1 tsp whole black peppercorns
4 to 6 bay leaves
¾ cup apple cider vinegar (use some of your herbal vinegar!)
1½ cups olive oil
3 Tbsp salt
1¼ cups water
1.  Boil the cattails in water for 5 to 10 minutes, and drain thoroughly.
2.  Stuff flowerheads, garlic, peppercorns, and bay leaves into clean, sterile quart jar.
3.  Combine vinegar, oil, water and salt in a saucepan.
4.  Bring to a boil, remove from heat and pour over the cattail heads.
5.  Add a little more oil, vinegar and water if the liquid does not reach to the top of the jar.
6.  Cover and let marinate in the refrigerator overnight.
If you are experienced at making pickles, you could experiment with some of your favorite pickle recipes and put them up as preserves.
Cattail Pollen Pancakes
Cattail pollen pancakes are an experience you will never forget!  They are absolutely delicious!
1 cup flour
1 cup cattail pollen
1 tsp salt
2 tsp baking powder
2 eggs
½ cup honey
¼  cup oil
2 cups milk
1.  Mix dry ingredients together in a bowl.
2.  Add eggs, honey, oil and milk and mix thoroughly.
3.   If the batter seems to thick to pour, add more milk until it has a good pancake batter consistency.
4.  Cook on a hot griddle until golden brown.
Cattail Pollen Biscuits
You’ll never be the same after eating these golden, melt-in-your-mouth biscuits, worth every minute of your time and effort in harvesting the cattail pollen.  My secret for making light biscuits is to make the dough in a food processor.
1 cup white flour (wheat flour just doesn’t make ‘em light enough!)
1 cup cattail pollen
¼ cup butter
1 Tbsp honey or sugar
3 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
¾ cup milk
1.  Preheat oven to 450 °.
2.  Put flour, cattail pollen, salt and baking powder, and butter in a food processor and run on high until you have a course mixture.  (If no food processor, cut with a fork or pastry cutter until mixture resembles fine crumbs.)
3.  Add honey or sugar plus the milk and whiz just until the dough forms a lump.  Do not overmix!
4.  Shape into biscuits and bake on ungreased cookie sheet 10-12 minutes until golden brown.
You can make drop biscuits by increasing the milk to 1 cup and dropping by large spoonfuls until a cookie sheet.
Buttermilk biscuits:  For the ultimate biscuit, substitute buttermilk for the milk, decrease baking powder to 2 tsp, and add ¼ tsp baking soda.
New Food Precaution
Since some people are allergic to common ordinary foods, such as milk products and eggs and nuts, it is only reasonable to suspect that some people will be allergic to some wild foods.
Whenever you are experimenting with a new food you have never eaten before, you should only consume a very SMALL quantity of it the first time you eat it to determine if you are allergic to it. If you are allergic to it, then you should avoid it in the future. However, if you do NOT develop any allergic reactions to a very small quantity of the food, then the next day you may eat a little more of it. It is NOT wise to eat too much of an unknown food that your body has never digested before. Always begin with a very meager portion and then gradually add just a little more each day to help prevent a serious allergic reaction to a new food.

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