Monday, October 11, 2010

How To Grow Cattail For Food

Cattail has been called the grocery store of the wild. At least one part of it is edible throughout the year.

Edible Uses By Season:
~Early Spring-The young shoots can be cut, boiled, salted, and eaten. It is slimy and as a taste similar to cucumber, which I am not particularly fond of.
~Late Spring-The immature green male (top) flower spike can be eaten like corn. This is my favorite part of the cattail. I boil it for about 10 minutes (though it can easily be eaten raw), add a bit of salt, and eat it like corn. It is very filling and has a taste similar to corn. I imagine it is nutrient rich.
~Early Summer-Not long after the male flower spikes mature, they release profuse amounts of pollen and appear yellow. I put a bag over them, tilt the stalk down, and flick the spike with my finger letting the yellow pollen fall into the bag. I put this in Indian fry bread and regular bread in addition to the flour.
~Mid Summer-The inner basal part of stalk is also edible after the outer leaves are removed, and is similar to the young shoots.
~Late Summer through Winter-The flower spikes should be brown by now. The brown color is the color of the thousands of tiny seeds on the exterior, each attached to a couple threads of "fluff". These small seeds can be parched over fire to remove the fluff and ground down to be used in a variety of ways. Since it is exceedingly difficult to parch such small seeds, it is often not worth the effort.
~Winter-The roots can be dug up, washed, and smashed in water. The smashed roots are removed and the starchy water is left to settle. Once the starch has settled to the bottom, the top water is poured off. The remaining mixture of concentrated starch is left to dry, so that only pure starch remains. This can be added to recipes.

I believe for the average person not in a survival situation, the immature male flower spikes and pollen are the most useful and easy products of the Cattail (Typha latifolia). To avoid pesticides, fertilizers, and other toxins it is best to grow your own cattail.

How To Grow Cattail To Eat:
  1. Find cattails in a natural area.
  2. Dig three or four up making sure to keep roots intact and put them in a bucket.
  3. Find a low spot or a waterlogged area on your land. If it is not naturally wet, trickle irrigation to where you want to grow cattails. 
  4. Plant the cattails in the wet area (try to keep stalks upright and protected from the wind).
  5. Keep wet constantly (not necessary after they become dormant for winter).
  6. Harvest next year's crop.
I planted three cattail plants, the next year the cattail grove expanded to 100, and the next year it increased to 300. Cattails are vigorous and reproduce well through their root system.

Bon Appetite!

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Growing your own food is an important part of Thrivalism.

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