Today I had cattails for lunch and boy were they good. It is now getting towards the end of the season for eating cattail roots. If I had to describe the flavor it would have to be summed up with the flavor of a cucumber. I actually want to collect some more before the season is over and try it in place of cucumbers in a cucumber sandwich and in salads or even breaded and fried. Mmmmmmm.
All along I have had a fascination with wild edibles and cattails have grown every where I have ever traveled yet I have never tried them. I have had countless berries of all sorts as well as wild mint and even garlic but never any staple foods like the cattail. It is truly a fascinating plant, in all that it gives throughout the seasons. In the early spring you can eat the shoots, in mid sumer you can eat the hearts (found by pulling the cattail at the base out of the ground and then peeling all of the outer leaves off till you are left with the heart), you can also make pancakes with the pollen!
The cattail plant has many other uses besides its food value. When you peel the leaves from the stock you will find a soupy gel like substance that is odorless and colorless. In my research I found that the Native Americans would often use this natural gel like substance to treat burns and cuts.
The plant material itself is highly useful. The spikes are used to make sewn mats and the leaves are woven into mats as well. Native Americans from the east through the west have used cattail mats to cover their Wigwams.
Cattail as well as grass mats are something that I would like to learn to make so keep an eye out in future articles. I did try my hand at weaving some green cattail leaves together while writing this article into a sailboat.
So get out there before the season is up and give them a try!