Cattails (Typha spp.)



Recognize the familiar "corn dog "appearance?

Cattails  are known as  the "supermarket of the swamp" for their various edible parts.

 Just make sure to harvest from "clean" areas.  Cattails are really good at absorbing bad things like industrial pollutants. 

Young cattails


In spring the young cattail plants (shoots) emerge.

These shoots are harvested by pulling them up from the ground or mud.

The white base of the shoot is edible.

Cattail shoots


The white section at the base of the plant is tender and tasty, raw or cooked.  

Peel away the tough outer leaves, kind of like a leek.

Identifying cattail


A word of caution - In their young stages, cattail can look a bit like iris (not shown).

Cattail and iris leaves may look similar, but the base of the iris stem is flattened and fans out. 

Cattail is round at the base, like a leek. 

Iris is said to have only low toxicity if eaten, but I like to be really cautious anyway with plant identification.

The flower stalk


The male / female flower stalk emerges in spring.

The male section is the polleny part on the top.  It is chock full of pollen. The pollen is edible and protein-rich.

Below the male you can see the female section.  She will become fertilized by the pollen and turn into the familiar brown "corndog" or "cigar".

The green female part can be boiled and eaten - some say it tastes like corn on the cob.



To harvest pollen - Easily collect by shaking the stalks into a bag. 

Add a few tablespoons to pancake batter or other baked goods for a nutritious protein boost.