Had a cattail salad (this plant can save your life)




 

Cattail salad - cattail summer saladNo, it’s not a play on words. I chewed a cattail salad a couple days ago. Yeah, a salad from these pre-historic-looking plants. And, no, everything is okay with me.

You can eat these swamp things? Aha. Not only you can, you should try eating them at least once in your lifetime. Because they are suspiciously good. And because you can eat almost any part of them and still everything tastes good. Raw and without anything. Foragers say that they are one of the best-tasting wild plants.

Funny but I found out just recently that cattail is called so because its flower resembles a cat’s tale. Took a long time 🙂 Crazy how sometimes you can miss something that is staring right at you.

Cattails are like spam – they are nearly everywhere and in great quantities. Almost in every part of the world. As long as it’s a little wet year-round, their leaves and heads usually stick out. There are a few poisonous plants with leaves that look similar, but don’t worry, none of them have such a spectacular head. So, finding and identifying cattails is not a problem. Collecting them is fun (except roots maybe). For example, if you want an inner stalk, you grab a cattail by its inner leaves and pull it – and a white, perfectly clean stalk comes out ready to be devoured.

This plant would serve you exceptionally well if you are lost in the wild. First and foremost, because it has at least one edible part at any time of the year. Even winter! In winter and fall, you can eat its roots. In spring and summer, you can eat inner lower stalks, roots and flower heads (including the upper part with pollen). American Indians besides eating the heads raw, also roasted and boiled them, like corn-on-the-cob. But cattail’s use is not limited to being just food. You can make a durable shelter, more than a few remedies, pillows, life-jackets, and even anti-freeze from it. Which all are useful when you are trying to keep yourself alive. One author who “fell” for the plant called it “supermarket of the swamp”. I feel like comparing it to a coconut tree. Seems like these two were designed with the purpose of making people’s lives easier. Thank you, Nature.

The flavor?

The stalks remind cucumber and zucchini! The texture is more tender though. It’s so refreshing to have them in the midst of a hot day. The taste of roots is similar, less cucumbry maybe.

The taste of flower heads is up to you to find out. The heads are going to show up soon, so don’t miss a chance to surprise your tastebuds.

 

 

 

They are divine with this dressing

 

The above salad is just some summery veggies and, of course, cattail stalks. With this dressing, they are divine.

For the dressing, I blended  mango, avocado, fermented rye and cucumber. But, really just mango and avocado is all it takes. A weird combo but you will like it. Mango needs to be semi-ripe, so that it’s a little sour. By the way, that’s one of the favorite dressings of Frederic Pateunade, a long-time raw vegan who I read sometimes.

 

Cattail salad - cattail stalks

After a hunt

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

Main references:

http://opensourceecology.org/wiki/Cattails
http://hungerandthirstforlife.blogspot.ca/2010/05/wild-about-cattail-shoots.htm

 

5 Comments
  1. I never knew you could eat the cattail plant. I honestly would be scared to do so without directly seeing someone pull it out of the ground, prep it, cook it, eat it, and not get sick. But that’s just me being overly cautious. It’s good to know though. If I’m ever in a desperate situation and see a cattail, I’d probably go for it.

    • Jen, at least now you won’t die from starvation when you are lost and there are cattails around. Even kids would identify them.

  2. Hi! Thanks so much for this wonderful article on cat tail salad.

    I have never heard of eating cattails before. I actually live next to a swamp and am surrounded by them. Now that I know they are edible, I’m definitely going to give them a try.

    How do you harvest them? Do you pull out the entire plant or just the center stalk?

    • Barb,

      Thank you for reading.

      Since it’s the end of summer, now the center stalks are too fibrous to eat. The flowers are gone as well. However, you can eat its roots. Or rhizomes, to be biologically correct. They are just stems that grow underground. They give rise to roots and shoots. When you get down to rhizomes you might see the shoots. They are called corms. They will emerge into an actual cattail plant next year. You can eat them as well!

      It’s pretty simple to harvest rhizomes and corms. But you will need to get your hands dirty. What you want to do is dig into the soil around the cattail base and when you locate a few rhizomes, grab and pull on them, trying to get the other ones out as well. Wash them thoroughly. You know what, I will try to take a picture of this stuff in the next few days.

      Happy foraging!

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