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Cattails rule!

 
Emil Spoerri
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To bad most of the ones I see are growing in the drainage ditches of highways! : (

The roots are delicious, like the best sweet potatoes ever! They have quite a bit of annoying fibers though, so either you got to process it, or just pull the meat off the strings with your teeth!

I am not usually a huge salad fan, but the stalks on these are tops! I have read they can be harvested into june in many areas. They are like a cross of scallions in texture and asparagus in flavor. They make an awesome salad!

The immature tails are delicious too! They actually kinda taste like chicken, awesome with BBQ sauce haha!

Even the pollen was used by natives as a flour.

They are incredibly hardy, I bet they make good food for cows and pigs too. Perhaps fowl as well with a bit of processing.

All you need is a overly wet spot where nothing much else will grow anyways!
 
Glenn Kangiser
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Thanks Emile.

I was looking for more info and posted this on the hugelkultur posting.  More appropriate here.

mike oehler told me what he knew about Cattails.

Link to video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=90vHr7Ck924

Mike at my spring.



I am ready to try them.  Just have to get time to get back down there.
 
Tyler Ludens
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Here in my region cattails survive in areas which aren't constantly wet, and can survive long droughts by going dormant.  We have an old quarry on our land which holds water during wet periods.  I established cattails there a few years ago.  The previous two years were severe drought for us, but the cattails survived for months without water. 
 
Brenda Groth
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i have read that cattails are good food, and we have tons and tons of them, but I haven't eaten them YET....but now i'll give them a try..

well when they are at the edible stage again..right now they are putting on their tops..

what are the tails??

do you mean the tops??

i guess it just shows me more and more how long we could live off of just the wild food that grows naturally on our property..i probably have enough cattails here to feed the entire neighborhood all year.

read about the Bullock Bros in Gaia's gardens and that made me think of trying them..and in my edible wild food books..but i still haven't tried them yet..but i LOVE sweet potatoes..so hey, if they taste like sweet potatoes you sold me
 
gary gregory
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Location: northern california, 50 miles inland from Mendocino, zone 7
 
Emil Spoerri
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The roots can be harvested all year, but I would wager that they are better after the tops die and even better just before they break dormancy in the spring.
The shoots are edible when small or just peal them when large. Supposedly good into June, but they seemed rather large to me in mid May, but were delicious.
Your area is pretty north, the tops may be good still, if they are just coming on.

Also, they look a lot like reeds, which have similar roots which I would only recommend as a last resort to prevent starvation... not very tasty. Might be nutritious though?
 
tel jetson
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the mature seed heads make great insulation.  pick them gently so they don't fall apart, then crumble them into a wall cavity or winter vest or comforter.  I'm told they also make fairly good filling for flotation devices, though I haven't tried it.

incidentally, I'm headed down the road to dig some out of the ditch either this evening or tomorrow morning for a grey water setup.
 
Tyler Ludens
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Brenda Groth wrote:
i have read that cattails are good food, and we have tons and tons of them, but I haven't eaten them YET....but now i'll give them a try..

well when they are at the edible stage again..right now they are putting on their tops..


"You can clip off and eat the male portions of the immature, green, flower head. Steam or simmer it for ten minutes. It tastes vaguely like its distant relative, corn, and there ís even a central cob-like core. Because it's dry, serve it with a topping of sauce, seasoned oil, or butter. Sometimes I also gnaw on the cooked female portions, but thereís very little to them. It ís easier to remove the flesh from the woody core, if desired, after steaming. This adds a rich, filling element to any dish, and it's one of the best wild vegetarian sources of protein, unsaturated fat, and calories. It also provides beta-carotene and minerals."  http://www.wildmanstevebrill.com/Plants.Folder/Cattails.html
 
Travis Philp
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You can also eat the cattail 'hearts' up until around mid july give or take a few weeks.

The heart is part of the stem; it is the inner white cylinder found at the point above where the leaves meet the soil.

To harvest:

-grab ahold of the leaves about 1-2 feet from ground level and pull. The plant should pop free from its root system.

-Then you just peel back the leaves until you start to see the inner white cylinder. I've found that the bottom 3-8 inches of the heart are tender, and then it gets fibrous above that. To test it, just take a bite and chew.

For any of you market gardeners out there...I've been able to successfully sell cattail hearts to upscale  restaurants who are into experimenting. I'd suggest giving samples to chef's as being worthwhile if you know of a large patch of cattails.
 
                          
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I dont know if you get into basketry, but cattails are excellent for baskets, hats, mats, etc. Since you are harvesting for food, you can save the leaves for projects. Here is a good link that explains how to process and store the leaves until they are used for the weaving. http://www.wickerwoman.com/articles/processing-cattail-leaves

A good basketry primer (includes cattails) is http://www.amazon.com/Earth-Basketry-Osma-Gallinger-Tod/dp/0887400760/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1281278210&sr=8-1

And if you want to try your hand at hats, even though it says raffia, you can use the cattails, http://www.amazon.com/Make-Raffia-Hats-Bags-Baskets/dp/0882668870/ref=sr_1_4?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1281278327&sr=8-4
 
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