Recently I biked down to a nearby swamp to gather some cattail pollen. The sun was like an organic egg yolk on that day! Loved it. Of rich orange color. Because of the smoke here in Alberta – wind carried it all the way from British Columbia. Forests are on fire there. Animals run for their lives, houses turn to ashes – not a pretty sight. I really like the smell though.
The sun was also exactly the same color as “construction personnel only” sign. Except it had a life in it. Where is the sign coming from among the wetlands? Good question. The thing is, large parts of wetlands along a rural road here are completely being removed. That also means that our dear cattails are being killed. I asked one of the construction guys and he said it’s done to widen the road and run it over the urban one via an overpass. I want to write “whatever” but you need to look at life at different angles, right? Anyways, wetlands should be left alone. Period. In environment, they do something similar that your kidneys do. Regulate water quantity and quality. Real life examples? They filter water from such scary herbicide as the Roundup. More? Prevent crops from dying during droughts. And your houses from being destroyed during floods. Those living in Alberta will never forget the floods of 2013. Catastrophic in their consequences. The worst in Alberta history, actually. Wetlands deal with such disasters. If wetlands were avoided as much as possible during Alberta urban developments in the last century, the 2013 destruction would not be as bad. If these are not good enough reasons not to touch the wetlands, I don’t know what is. They are also home and shelter for countless number of animals, small and large. If you like the numbers: close to 90% of all living organisms either live or breed in wetlands! In terms of the number of species wetlands support at one specific moment in time, they are comparable to lush rainforests!
Thanks heavens, there is a policy regulating wetland mistreatment in Alberta. And the new one that came out recently is more stringent than the old one. At least these wetlands here will be mitigated according to the new rules.
I don’t want to sound like an environmental nerd, but whenever you get a chance, tell your friends about these smelly but crucially important ecosystems ( when partying 🙂 )
Getting back to cattails.
I was late. In that specific wetland, a lot of pollen has been already dissipated by the wind. Now the cattail heads looked exactly like the tail of your favorite cat. I just harvested them whole. If you can eat those parts when they are in bloom, why not eat them when they are dried? To me, they taste like saltless plain white bread, without any additives, baked in the old-fashioned way. Something similar to a French baguette. Or maybe I’m hallucinating. But if not, isn’t it cool? No wonder Native Americans made breads from cattails.
Turning the heads into bread… I decided to use them whole. In hopes to make the bread taste more like that French baguette, I just added some olive oil. As well as a bit of coconut flour to make the bread more civilized, water and blended everything. And then dehydrated. The stuff that came out had a grassy texture and intense floral scent, quite epic. But too dry. I imagine if added more oil… And it didn’t taste like a French baguette anymore. But was decent. I think it would be too fibrous for people who are not used to the weird plant stuff.
What you really should do with cattail pollen
Don’t worry, pollen is still around (I saw it intact in other wetlands). What you really should do is shake off the pollen using a zip-lock bag, and sieve it maybe. And then add the pollen into your dehydrated breads and snacks. Don’t make the pollen to be more than 30% of your total raw dough/mix though. The reason is, it’s high in protein – you might have trouble digesting it. Also, look at this yellow powder as a superfood. Take a couple tablespoons in a morning, decorate smoothies, salads.
Now getting to the always fun part: health benefits. How can this powder make your life better?
Cattail pollen benefits
Unfortunately, barely any official literature on cattail pollen benefits. Like all pollen of course, it’s rich in energy, protein and nutrients. Some other things:
- cattail pollen increases platelet number. The main job of platelets is blood clotting. When their level is low, your end up bleeding more than usual
- according to the Russian folk medicine tips here, it’s good for lowering inflammation. There it also says that you can apply the powder directly on open wounds, ulcers and burns. Including infected ones. Which makes sense if it’s good for inflammation and clotting. Very useful if you are lost in the wild and happened to injure yourself. The difference between a wound and an ulcer? A wound occurs as a result of externally applied force. Say, you cut a finger with a knife while making your raw delicacies. While a root cause of an ulcer is internal health problems such as diabetes
- reduces the level of lipid in blood
- a diuretic
Regarding the flowers that are in fluff stage: on this site one guy says that he used tea steeped from them in hopes to fix the heart problems. His heart started to “limp” after breathing exhaust fumes when working as a test driver. After 5 days of drinking the tea the heart calmed down. In 1.5 weeks the pain returned. He again started drinking the tea. After that moment 11 years passed (at the time of him writing the message) and the pain never bothered his heart again.
Yeah, a lot of talking today. Well, hopefully, you did fish out something useful from this talking.
I’ll leave you with Texas-born naturalist. The guy – Euell Gibbons – was a bit wild about wild edibles though 🙂 Just like me.
For the number of different kinds of food it produces there is no plant, wild or domesticated, which tops the common Cattail.
The “tails” I used for the bread. You can see some pollen left in there This is when you want to shake the pollen off