Excerpt from my newest book, “Free Food”, which is due to be released later this month! This book will show you how to find wild foods and prepare them. With loads of photos to assist with identification and recipe section to show you how to prepare your newly ‘found’ foods, this book can show you ways to save on your food bill by simply taking a walk through the neighborhood! For the modern family who wants to save money and get back to the basics, if you know how to forage for food, you’ll never be hungry for long.
Cattails growing along shorelines.
What part is edible: The rhizomes can be cooked, peeled and eaten. The stalks can be cooked and eaten or eaten raw. The early flowering spikes can be eaten.
WARNING- Do not eat cattails from polluted water areas. If the plant has a pungent, bitter or spicy taste DO NOT EAT IT.
Cattails are said to have a taste similar to corn. They can be found in many areas of Arkansas and are generally in areas with standing water.
These plants can reach 10 feet in height and will grow around waters edge and as far away from the water line as 3 feet.
Native Americans used cattails to treat sunburn by pounding the roots into a poultice. The flowering part of the plant can also be used in the same way when it begins to get a “fuzz” on it. This fuzz can be pounded and used to cure rashes on babies or to treat burns. The young flowers can be eaten and will help as an aid for diarrhea.
Cattail shoots can be taken as late as in the summer time. You want to peel the outer layer away to get to the tender, white meat of the plant inside. You can eat this raw, in salads or cook it if you prefer.
The top of the cattail looks like a hotdog and can actually be cooked and eaten the same way you’d eat corn on the cob. It can be a little on the dry side, so you might want to have some butter handy.
The rhizome part of the stalk ( the part that is underwater and in the ground) can be dug up and washed very well. If you cook this part, it is similar to a potato in flavor. You can also pound this part and it can be used as a thickener in soups. Even the seeds of the cattail can be toasted and eaten. Try adding them to a salad and enjoy the unique flavor that they will add. Cattails are a delicacy known to only a few.
Cattail Wild Rice Soup
1 cup dry wild rice (4 cups cooked)
2 Tbsp sesame oil
½ cup chopped green onion
2 cups cattail shoots, sliced (about 30 cattails)
2 tsp salt
1. Cook the wild rice until tender.
2. In a heavy-bottomed soup pot sauté onion and cattail shoots in sesame oil until tender and translucent.
3. Add the cooked wild rice, salt and 4 cups of chicken broth or other soup stock of choice.
4. Simmer together for 15-20 minutes and serve.