Cattail: edible roots, flowers.

Newsgroups: alt.folklore.herbs
Subject: cattail roots
From: (rhiannon)
Date: Sat, 13 May 1995 04:29:15 GMT

My aunt used to fix baked cattail roots with meals sometimes, they are wonderful. However, I don't remember what time of year you are supposed to harvest them. I know that it is just in a month or so that you can, any other time and they are tough and bitter. Does anyone have any info on this or any recipes using cattail roots?

From: (Sebastian Rust)

> Does anyone have any info on this or any recipes using cattail roots?

I don't know about the roots, the new sprouts in early spring,pulled up , leaves removed and peeled. You can eat the inner part raw or steamed.

Sharon Rust

From: cdeleo.lamar.ColoState.EDU (Claire DeLeo)

I have dried cattail roots, and then ground them into a flour. They made nice pancakes. I have read that if you are going to use the roots for a flour, the fall is the best time to collect them at they have more starch in the roots. In the fall when the plants are preparing to go dormant, they translocate food from the leaves to the roots.

I would think that anytime in the summer or fall would be a good time to harvest the roots for baking. I think they might be bitter in the spring, but don't know that for sure.


From: (Gmericks)

I don't know about cattail roots but the cattail flowers, the top part, not the bottom part that turns into the brown fuzzy thing, can be eaten and it is fantastic. Collect the top part with a sissors and a basket. In Minnesota the plants flower in mid-June, but anywhere south I suspect it's much earlier. I just go by the swamps every week or so.

I would suspect you could collect the roots at the same time.

From: (Vandy Simpson)

> Does anyone have any info on this or any recipes using cattail roots?

Although I couldn't find any recipes specifically about cattail ROOTS, I did come across these.[ I haven't tested them myself, so I have no guarantees...]

...the young flowerspike we seek, in the late spring before it has turned brown and sausagelike.At that time of year, the flower is still encased in its long green leaf (it is rather like a long, very thin cob of corn).To prepare it for cooking, peel it as you would corn.It will be of a dark velvety green colour and texture, and in two distinct divisions.Put the flowers into boiling water for about 10 minutes, when they should be cooked.Dip into melted butter, season with salt and pepper. (the inside is a hard core.)...

...not to be confused with the true bulrush (Scirpus lacustris).Peel the young stems carefully and cook the white inner part in boiling water until tender.Eat like asparagus, dipping into melted, herb-flavoured butter.

Peel and cook the young roots as a vegetable or grate them raw into a salad. [okay, it's a mention of roots, but not much by way of a recipe!] The seeds can also be eaten and have a pleasant nutty taste when roasted.

In times of shortage, bulrush pollen can be used as a flour substitute. Wash and peel young bulrush shoots and cut them into short pieces of equal length.Tie into bundles and cook in boiling salted water until tender.Drain and cool the stems, chop into a bowl and cover with and oil and vinegar dressing...

So I haven't tried any of these, though they sound interesting. I might also check with any of the historic sites that include native culture: Jamestown in Virginia springs to mind.

Good luck with your search. I'll keep my eyes open for whatever responses you glean.

Vandy Simpson