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Foraging and Eating Cattails

Foraging food is not just for survival in an emergency situation, it's a great way to supplement your food budget. In the last few years I've learned more about edible mushrooms and wild asparagus to go along with the knowledge I already had of certain weeds such as dandelions and polk. Be sure to research anything growing wild before eating. There are always dangers, and you need to familiarize yourself with them.

The latest that I've learned about is cattails. Did you know you can eat cattails? Me neither.

The cattail is one of the most important and common wild foods that is foraged. Being most important because cattails provide edible food all year round, provide calories and starch! Here is what I've learned.

Stalks/Stems/Shoots - Best from early spring through early summer. The stems have a cucumber like flavor. People say they are great in soups, salads, peeled and eaten raw. Eat the stem starting at the white end, as you go up, peel away more leaves to get to the tender center.

Flower spikes - Best late spring. Gather when green. Boil for a few minutes. They say they taste like corn on the cob. Wild Blessings will show you how. The 3 Foragers teach you how to make Cattail Flower Griddle Cakes. The recipe can be found here.

Pollen - Flour. For a short time in late spring or early summer, before the flower spikes turn brown, the green pollen can be gathered by carefully bending the flower head into a bag, and shaking it gently. The flour will fall into the bottom of the bag. Pollen is high protein. It can be combined with flour to make pancakes, muffins and biscuits.

Corms- Best in the fall. Can be eaten raw and are said to be great roasted.

Rhizome/Root - Best harvested in the winter. This can be dried into flour and even made into jelly. Tactical Intelligence has excellent instructions on the flour process. Also check out this great article fromMissouri Conservation. It has all kinds of recipes for each part of the cattail and other edibles!

Our pond has cattails and I'm going to try them. What do you think? Do you have a favorite that you forage for?

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  1. Love them in salad in spring! Didn't know anyone else who used them as it's normal in Europe but not here in states.

  2. btw, have you tried ramps in spring? and birch juice in March? and of course Morels come May :)

  3. Jenny no I've not tried ramps? What are they?

  4. I knew cattails are edible but I haven't tried them. I will, though, if I can find some that aren't just on the side of the road.

  5. Annie maybe I can bring you some if I go back to work in your neck of the woods. :)

  6. Lisa,
    ramps are wild garlic plants that are fabulous in spring salads or with mashed egg salad.