Cattails are pretty amazing plants! The common marsh, lake, pond and ditch plant is actually a very valuable and multipurpose plant, with technology, food, permaculture and even medicinal uses.
Cattails: Top Survival Food
At Wolf Camp, we teach that cattails are the #1 survival plant in temperate North America. If you are in a survival situation and are in an area with cattails, you have lucked out! Cattail rhizomes (the root structure) contain very high levels of carbohydrates, as well as some protein, vitamins, minerals.
However, we don’t have to be in a survival situation to enjoy eating cattails. A recipe that I particularly like is Cattail chips. The starchy consistency of the rhizome mimics a potato, making them very similar in taste and texture.
When harvesting a cattail rhizome, make sure that the area isn’t polluted or near a road! Because cattails are bioaccumulators, they suck up whatever is in their environment and filter it through their rhizomes. So, if we harvest a cattail from an area with heavy metals, pollution, or some sort of chemical contamination, the root will be impure and contain these contaminants.
Cattails also have a poisonous look-a-like, the wild Iris. Make sure you can positively ID the cattail before you harvest!
1 Cattail Rhizome, cleaned and chopped into quarter-sized pieces
Butter or oil (coconut oil or organic Olive oil are good choices)
Salt and Pepper to taste
In a pan, heat the butter or oil. Add in the chopped cattail rhizome, sprinkle in some salt and pepper, and saute until done — crispy and browned. Enjoy!
For more information on Cattails and other Wild Edibles and top Survival Foods, check out these Wolf College guides:
- The Most Important Plant: Cattails (video included)
- The Top 10 Most Important Wild Edibles / North America & Western Washington
- Eating from the Seashore: Seaweeds and Shellfish from the Salish Sea
- Stinging Nettle: Harvesting, Processing, & Recipes
*** For educational purposes only. This information has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. We recommend that you consult with a qualified health care practitioner before using herbal products, particularly if you are pregnant, nursing or on any medications. ***
*** Please read our Honorable Harvesting Guidelines before harvesting any plant material. The final guideline is of utmost importance: “Never put anything in your mouth unless you are 100% sure it is safe to ingest.” ***
Hannah began her apprenticeship at Wolf Camp in 2013 and graduated as a lead herbal instructor in 2014. Join Hannah and other Wolf College wild chefs during our annual Wild Cooking & Ethnobotany Expedition: The Herbal Foray the second week of July on Lake Sammamish near Seattle.
Hannah graduated from the University of Oregon in 2014 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Foreign Languages. She has her own blog, where she writes about her love for crafts, animals, plants, cooking, and the outdoors: rainmountaincrafts.com