Identifying, Harvesting and Cooking with Cattails

Identifying, Harvesting and Cooking with Cattails


identifying harvesting and cooking with cattails cattail has different names depending on
parts of the world many times it’s also called bulrush in the United States
bulrush is the common name for an entirely different plant so that can
cause confusion for the sake of this course I’ll call it cattail it looks
like this you probably recognize it because it’s so common while there are
many different species of cattails around the world there are two main
species that are found worldwide including the Arctic Circle the
botanical names are Typha latifolia which is the wide leaf cattail and Typha angustifolia which is the narrow leaf cattail both are equally edible and
tasty I’m showing both of them to you here side by side the one on the left is
the wide leaf cattail and the one on the right is the narrow leaf cattail you can
tell the wide leaf cattail also has larger flower spikes they do hybridize
so you may come across a stand of cattail that’s actually a combination of
both of these species this is my favorite wild edible to talk about for a
lot of reasons most importantly I love the taste and I love the taste of all
the different parts of the plant it is so versatile it also grows prolifically
so there is little risk of over harvesting in fact where I live the wide
leaf cattail is considered invasive the plants are perennial living for many
years it spreads by seeds and also by rhizomes it forms these large
interconnected stands cattail grows in shallow water in wetlands lakes streams
even roadside ditches is a place to find it although I wouldn’t harvest and
roadside ditches just because of the potential runoff and pollution in the
water in which it grows be sure that the water where you harvest is not polluted
when it’s at full growth for the season it’s readily recognisable so you
shouldn’t have difficulty properly identifying it at all if you’re
harvesting earlier in the season though you do want to look for last year’s
growth this is quite a large stand of last
year’s plants you can see how aggressively it’s taken over this
wetland this is a stand in northern Minnesota that has just spent the entire
winter under a bed of snow and yet you can still clearly see the remnants of
the stalks from last year at this stage you can harvest these starchy rhizomes
that can be processed into flour these are packed with protein and it
makes a great survival food and many people do use the plant this way by
peeling the outer layer and then drying and grinding it’s really mucky work and
time consuming so I wait for the other tastier parts of the plant to arrive the
shoots are much more fun to harvest and I love the taste at this stage the
cattails can look like a few other plants that are not edible again look
for last year’s growth see if you are able to find the cattail shoots in this
video they’re hard to see at first but once you have trained your eye on them
they become easier to spot here’s a shoot at the tip of this stick once
you’ve found your cattail shoots then be sure the young shoots are oval at the
base and not flattened if they are flattened then their irises and you
don’t want to use those it should also not smell or taste strongly if they do
they’re probably sweet flags so you don’t want to use those either
I find the freshly harvested shoots to taste a bit like cucumber see if you can
find the shoot in this video to harvest use a sharp knife to cut the base of the
shoot it’ll likely be under water you can use your fingers to help determine
where this is just be sure not to cut your fingers you don’t need to cook
these shoots in fact I find them refreshing just as is just be sure to
rinse them off first they are a wonderful chopped up in salads I put
them in a salad of tomatoes and cilantro I also love to add them to a quinoa
salad with green onion olive oil lemon parsley you can cook them too this
really is such versatile food later in the season
cattail plants grow taller than the average person or at least certainly
taller than I am the leaves of the mature plants are smooth stiff and
linear and are pretty distinctive the vertical stem produces a flowering spike
with the male flowers forming an narrow spike at the top that withers once the
pollen is shed the female flowers form a dense sausage-like shape of a spike on
the stem below the male spike these spikes are larger with the wide leaf
cattail and touch one another you can compare these with a narrow leaf cattail
that has a more on narrow spike in a space between the male and female spikes
as the first spikes appear they’re covered with green sheath if you remove
this green sheath it’ll reveal the green spikes underneath I have boiled these
and then spread butter on them they’re just like corn on the cob but a bit more
tender I think they’re fabulous this is my favorite part of the plant the
blooming green spikes begin to turn a bright yellow and puffs out as the
season progresses this yellow powdery substance is the pollen of the plant the
pollen can be used as a flower for baking or any time a thickener is needed
in a recipe collect this simply by putting the spikes in the bag and
shaking simple as can be there’s also a long list of uses for this plant other
than for food so it’s worth mentioning a few of them this includes building
material insulation paper clothing biofuel fire-starting candles and
bedding this is really a great plant for my free herbalism mini course go to
herbalismcourses.com you’ll get quick access to my favorite herbal
remedies for cold and flu first aid herbs for energy and natural medicine
found right in your own kitchen look forward to seeing you there

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