Edible Plants: Cattails

 Edible Plants: Cattails

With a little knowledge it becomes clear that there are plenty of plants that you come across in the wilderness that can help keep you alive in a survival situation. You must be careful as not all plants are edible and some can kill however, today we are going to be looking at the edible cattails (Typha species.)

Cattails offer a wide range of benefits and have been eaten for thousands of years in Europe as all parts of the plant are edible.

Cattail is a good source of nutrients, vitamins and minerals. Consuming 19 gram of cattail offers 0.144 mg of Manganese, 4.3 µg of Vitamin K, 12 mg of Magnesium, 0.9 g of Total dietary fibre, 0.17 mg of Iron, 0.023 mg of Vitamin B6 and 21 mg of Sodium. 28g of cattails gives:

  1. 7 calories
  2. 31mg sodium
  3. 1g total carbohydrates
  4. 0.02 calcium
  5. 1% iron

Health Benefits

Cattails have many health benefits, some of which include:

  • Prevent Cancer – there is ongoing research into its ability to prevent cancer. Early results are looking promising.
  • Prevent Anaemia – Extracts from the cattail have coagulant properties, meaning that they slow down the flow of blood and prevent anaemia. This can be effective if it is applied on wounds, but also if a person is suffering from heavy menstrual bleeding, it can lessen the severity.
  • Skin Care – The rich nutrients and organic compounds found in cattail contribute to its effect on the skin, particularly its ability to heal boils, sores, and reduce the appearance of scars.
  • Antiseptic Properties – The jelly-like substance that is found between young leaves can be used on wounds and other areas of the body where foreign agents, pathogens, or microbes might do damage in order to protect our system. This same jelly from the cattail plant is known as a powerful analgesic and can be ingested or applied topically to relieve pain and inflammation.
  • Steady Increase in Energy – Cattail consists of good amount of carbohydrate, which offers greater levels of energy and even replenish energy levels if deficient from time to time.
  • Controlling Diabetes – A regular intake of Cattail helps to control diabetes mellitus, which is non-insulin dependent. So it is fruitful to consume cattail on a regular basis to combat diabetes.
  • Improves Digestion – Cattail consists of a good amount of both soluble and insoluble fibre which is essential for improving the digestion process. Soluble fibres counter the absorption of cholesterol and insoluble fibres encourage the movement of waste out of the system. This leads to reduced chances of constipation or even haemorrhoids. So including cattail in a person’s diet helps to reduce various digestion related problems.

When foraging for cattails, be very careful about where you are gathering them from. Cattails are known to detoxify water so if the water around them is stagnant or polluted, these take those harmful compounds in which could be very dangerous if consumed.

Harvesting Cattails

Virtually all parts of the cattail plant are edible at some point of the year. The lower part of the stem is white and, if you eat it raw, you will notice that it tastes like cucumber. If you cook it, it tastes like corn.

While many parts of the plant can be useful year round, the wonderfully tender shoots are perfect for eating in mid to late spring.

The pollen can be removed from the stalk simply by shaking into a paper bag and using it as a thickener to soups and stews. In late summer, the green flower heads can be eaten like corn on the cob. In autumn, the roots can be harvested by soaking in water until a gel forms. You can use the gel in bread making and soups.

Edible cattail

Cattail Wild-Rice Soup

  • Cook 1 cup of dried wild rice until tender.
  • In a heavy-bottomed soup pot sauté 1/2 cup chopped green onion and 2 cups sliced cattail shoots in 2 Tbsp sesame oil until tender and translucent.
  • Add the cooked wild rice, 2 tsp salt and 4 cups of chicken broth or other soup stock of choice.
  • Simmer together for 15-20 minutes and serve.

Cattail Soup

  • Cover 2 1/2 cups of almonds with 10 cups of water and soak overnight in the refrigerator.
  • Puree the soaked almonds with about 3 cups of the almond/water mixture at a time in a blender until all the almonds have been pureed.
  • Pour the puree into a colander lined with cheesecloth or thin nylon fabric over a bowl. Twist the top of the cloth and squeeze the remaining water.
  • Discard the pulp and mix 2 cups of thinly sliced cattail shoots, 1/4 cup mint leaves and the juice of half a lemon with the almond milk. Serve chilled.

Making Tea from Wild Plants 

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