Wild About - Cattail Flowers

Cattails (Typha spp.) line the ponds and creeks that surround my neighborhood. The roots, shoots, flowers, and pollen of cattails are all edible. If you take advantage of all of these stages of growth, cattails provide a long season of eating. A few weeks ago, I tried eating young , and found them to be really delightful and cucumber-like.

Last week, I rolled past a stand of cattails and noticed that they had started to flower already, seemingly over night. Time to get busy, because cattail flowers are a wild food I'd hate to miss.

When a cattail flowers, it sends out two parts on the same stem which look quite similar. The tastiest part, and the one you want to collect is the top one, the male, which later sends out pollen. The lower one is the female, and matures into the recognizable brown punk which is commonly associated with the cattail plant. When harvesting the male flower for food, look for ones which are still tight and green, and just emerging from their sheaths like slender ears of corn.

It's traditional to boil cattail flowers. I worry about them getting water-logged, so instead, choose to steam them for about ten minutes, until they could easily be pierced with a knife. I'd read about people buttering cattail flowers and eating them corn-on-the cob style (called cat-on-the-cob). I'm sure this is an amusing exercise if you've got kids in the house. But since they are so small, I prefer to simply strip the flowers from the pointy toothpick-like core (be careful!) with a fork. Prepared in this way, it is easy to have a whole bowl-full ready to eat in minutes.

One of the most delicious ways to eat cattail flowers is to dress them simply with a good deal of salted garlic butter. Cattail flower also work well frittatas and in soups. They are mildly sweet and taste vaguely of corn, so it is best not to mask their delicate flavor with strong seasonings.

This post appears as a part of the Two for Tuesday blog hop, and also Fight Back Friday.

Comments

  1. As usual, I learned something new here! To think of all those cattails I could've eaten over the years. I had no clue they were edible. I totally thought that was a toothpick, LOL!! These sound really, tasty! Thanks so much =)

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  2. Butter baby, You teach me so much and I love your writing because YOU take me there with your words! I am laughing because to me, the only memory I have of cattails was a story of Sacagewea where she spoke of using the punk floss to line her baby's cradle board like diapers. LOL Thank for sharing the real food love on the two for tuesday recipe blog hop! :)

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  3. The season for cattails is quickly passing, but you can bet I'll be ready to go next year!

    I wish that someone was there with me when I foraged. I keep hoping that I'll pass someone else with rubber boots bungeed to their bike, a like-minded person, a friend in foraging.

    I just hope that my enthusiasm can help spread the word, and help to stop the disconnect that we all feel from our food. I want other people to know that they can walk outside and harvest part of their own meals, even in an urban environment! Take a piece of the pie back from THE MACHINE!

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  4. Yet again a wonderful post full of new knowledge for me! Thank you so much for sharing this on Two for Tuesdays! I remember playing with cattails as a kid, but yet again I had NO idea that they are edible! Thank you for educating me and for spreading the word that there is food ALL AROUND us!

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  5. Wow. All the time I read about things that you eat that I had no idea were edible. You stretch me, which is really good!

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  6. Umom- More than anything, I think it's just good fun to try new foods, new flavors. It's like getting to travel without leaving home.

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  7. I'm so determined to try these this year. I've been wanting to for a while, and this is the year!

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