Two days ago I went and checked a couple wetlands around… to see how cattail flowers are doing. Majority is still in early developing stage. But one hidden wetland that I never knew existed had a good number of pretty developed heads. It was exciting to see these nice green heads playing with the wind and red-winged blackbirds! Not sure how wetlands that are spaced so close together could produce at such different rates… My guess is that’s probably due to moisture levels. This wetland seemed deeper than all others. Doesn’t matter though. I ate more than I should and harvested a bunch. To see the heads, you need to get close – at this stage they still blend in. Interestingly, they grow in a manner similar to corn (so eating them like corn-on-the-cob is not out of the blue).
The flowers – really look like huge cigars – have two parts to them: lower and upper, light green and dark green, respectively. Both parts are edible. The lower part, if too developed, like the one on the picture below, may be too hard to eat it whole (because of the fibrous core). Still, you can eat everything else. Towards the fall this part becomes that brown head that everyone is familiar with. On the other hand, the upper part is soft enough to eat whole at this stage. It is just a bunch of tiny flowers that didn’t have a chance to bloom yet. Once they bloom, there will be pollen obviously. Which is also very palatable and certainly worth tasting. As you can imagine this floury substance is very nutrition. Nutrition-wise, it should be close to bee pollen if you ever had it. American Indians had a ton of uses for it. For example, for making bread and to paint their faces!
And yes, on and in the flesh of the flowers you may see black bugs crawling and doing their business. Don’t be off-put by them. They naturally live and feed there – won’t do anything to you.
The takeaway message? Have the flower and feel what it is like to be an elf 🙂