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Eating Cattails and Foraging Wild Foods

Far more than just decoration for floral arrangements, eating cattails is a thing! Have you had them? If you haven’t and you live in an area that has them, you may want to give it a go. It’s not only a good thing to know for survival and foraging wild foods, but cattails as a crop has an interesting history and future potential.

Did you know that our government has considered growing and eating cattails as a possible food source for the world’s population? We especially appreciate that every part of the cattail plant is edible and healthy, which we’ll get into more as we go here.[1]

Don’t poison the cattails… eat them!!

Power Packed Plant Foods

Did you know that naturally occurring chemicals in wild plants can help us perform better and feel better?

It’s fascinating to discover plants in our environment that are both edible and medicinal and so much more. Learning to identify plants in nature is like looking for friends in a crowd, and in the case of wilderness survival, it may just be the friends you need to call on in times of need.

There’s a plethora of valuable information available for free online today. Between that and the many amazing books, we can all have access to some of the planet’s best food and remedies from nature.

“When you eat a plant your body uses both the nurturing chemistry and the protective chemistry of the plant.”
~Jim Meuninck, biologist, author, wild plant expert, b.3/6/1942

Cattails for Food

Bet you didn’t know that Cattails produce more starch per acre than potatoes, rice, yaro or yams! We sure didn’t! Haven’t eaten cattails yet… looking forward to trying them.

See what’s possible? These days, people are returning to more varied and alternative foods to grow and eat. This is a more viable option when we focus on eating more local and growing our own foods, as well as enjoying responsible foraging in nature.

As our awareness and palate open up to recognize the world of edible plants and foods right in our own yards, fields and forests, we begin to look at nature differently. No longer do we look at weeds as a nuisance, but rather, we see them as viable options for meals and snacks. We no longer poison the weeds. Instead we eat the weeds that are edible, using them for food and medicine.

When we awaken to the world of food all around us, beyond what’s available in most grocery produce sections, then we begin to see a garden as so much more than our patch of cultivated vegetables. You know, food beyond what the agricultural mega corporations have decided we should eat because it travels best and stores best over time.

Cattails are just one example of one of the amazing wild edible plants you can eat, and which—like dandelion—is nutritious, medicinal and every part of the plant is edible.[2]

One acre of cattails can produce 6,475 pounds of flour per year on average.

Cattail Habitat

Cattails are always found in or near water and thrive in both marsh, fresh and saltwater. So if you live or visit such areas, you may want to forage for cattails!

Cattail Nutrition Content

Are cattails nutritious? You bet! Cattails contain:

  • Vitamin A
  • Vitamin B
  • Vitamin C
  • Potassium
  • Phosphorus

Excerpt from Greene Dean of Eat the Weeds:

“The young cob-like tips of the plant are edible as is the white bottom of the stalk, spurs off the main roots and spaghetti like rootlets off the main roots.” 

“The pollen can be used like flour.  I like their convenience as a trail nibble, or canoe nibble as it were. Just pull on one and where it pulls from the stalk there’s usually a tasty bite or two. I think the best part, though, are the new shoots off the main root. They start out looking like an alligator’s tooth then a pointed hook three or four inches long. The roots themselves need some processing.” For more on that, visit Greene Dean’s site:

Cattails are just one of many wonderful wild edible plants provided by nature.

How Do Cattails Taste and Which Parts of Cattails Can You Eat?

The[3] says:

Cattail Shoots – raw young shoots taste like cucumber and can also be made into pickles. When the young shoots are steamed they taste like cabbage.

Cattail Base or Stem – where it attaches to the rhizome can be boiled or roasted like potatoes.

Cattail Flower Stalks – can be taken out of their sheaths and can be boiled or steamed just like corn (Roos-Collins 1990; Clarke 1977). Newly emerging shoots of cattails are edible, with delicate flavor and crispy asparagus like texture (Glenn Keator, Linda Yamane, Ann Lewis 1995). The end of a new stem of cattail is popular for eating with Washoes (Murphy 1959). When mixed with tallow, the brown fuzz can be chewed like gum.

Cattail pollen – is a fine substitute for flours. It is a bright yellow or green color, and turns pancakes, cookies or biscuits a pretty yellow color (which children love).

Cattail Rhizomes(underground stems) and lower stems have a sweet flavor and can be eaten raw, baked, roasted, or broiled. Cattail rhizomes are fairly high in starch content; this is usually listed at about 30% to 46%.

Cattail Core – can be ground into flour. One acre of cattails would yield about 6,475 pounds of flour (Harrington 1972). This flour would probably contain about 80% carbohydrates and around 6% to 8% protein.

Cattails grow around the world and could be a potential source of food for the world’s population.[4]

Cattails... looking a bit like a hot dog on a stick (or corn dog), eaten like corn on the cob though tasting like neither of these.
Cattails… looking a bit like a hot dog on a stick (or corn dog), eaten like corn on the cob though tasting more like cucumber. All parts of cattails are edible.

Cattail Seeds

We didn’t find any cattail products on Amazon, such as cattail flour, shoot, etc., but they do have a handful of cattail seed sellers.

Fascinating Wildcrafting

The video that follows is an enchanting tour into the world of wild edible plants. Legendary biologist, naturalist and author, Jim Meuninck, shows us how to use them. If it’s summer, he will probably soon be sequestered high in the Rockies, working on yet another book to inform and inspire us all with insight into nature’s bounty of resources.

The only challenging thing about this video trek with Jim is staying in your seat to watch it when you’d rather be outside finding the plants! But it’s worth it! You’ll probably want to make of list of plants to look for next time you’re out in nature.

Farmer’s Almanac cites Cattails (Typha latifolia) as one of the most versatile plants and included it in their top 20 wild edible plants in North America.

Edible Wild Foods, Beneficial Herbs and Recipes

By Jim Meuninck, Biologist, Naturalist, Author

“You are a plant with wheels.”

“That is that you either eat plants, or you eat animals that eat plants. Therefore all your chemistry is made up from plant chemistry.”

Dive into the wonderful world of wild plants with Jim Meuninck and get ready to be inspired. Once you view one of Jim’s videos, chances are you’ll want to scan his others as well. We did!

“You are a plant with wheels… you either eat plants, or you eat animals that eat plants. Therefore all your chemistry is made up from plant chemistry.”
~Jim Meuninck, biologist, author, wild plant expert, b.3/6/1942

Let’s go wildcrafting!


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