Cat Tails Plant: Plants You Can Eat in the Wild
Cattail stalk can be harvested from early spring till mid or late summer. We rely on this common edible weed as a staple food when we are on both long and short cruises. When cooked in a stir fry, it has the texture of cabbage and could be considered almost tasteless. It’s flavor is very light, and could be said to be reminiscent of mashed potatoes.
Cattail RootsThe first step in harvesting the cat tails plant stalk is to grab it firmly at the base of the stalk and pull it away from its root structure. Cattails can grow from seed, but are more often connected by a rhizome, which is a root that tunnels through the ground and sends up new plants. In marshy areas, the cattail roots grows a few inches off the bottom. When harvested, a significant portion of the roots will come up with the stalk. These will need to be cleaned off with a knife. In dryer conditions, the cattail roots will grow underground and the stalk will break off evenly where the stalk and cattail roots meet.
The trick to eating the stalk is that you want the tender, inner part and you want to cut off the tougher, stringy parts. Usually the first four to six inches is what you’re after. These pieces can be cut off and thrown aside. If harvested with the cattail roots attached, there will be a ball of ‘meat’ that is quite edible and delicious. However, the cattails roots themselves are stringy and not edible, even with significant cooking.
Other Ingredients to Cook with Cattail Plants
My favorite way to prepare cattails is in a stir fry with red and green peppers, a red onion, and olive oil. This makes a healthy vegetarian meal, or a great base for adding additional plans you can eat in the wild.
Once the stalks are stripped of the out leaves, I like to cut the stalk into ¼ inch to ½ inch thick slices, cut diagonally to the stalk. I can the other ingredients to roughly the same size and thickness, then cook in a pan with olive oil on high heat.
Once the dish is cooked, it’s great to add additional food like beans, rice, and meat. The base stir fry also makes a great side dish to a main course. Here are some examples of how we’ve used them in the past: