Cattails are one of the true survival foods of North America. Found throughout all of North America, Mexico and parts of the Caribbean islands, this versatile plant provides nourishment, shelter, flavouring and heat. Virtually every part of this plant is usable. From its flowery head in late spring & early summer to its roots and stalks in winter, the cat tail can be put to good use.
In all seasons, cat tail root can be harvested.
The fibrous root network, when boiled, yields a great starchy paste, great for “bread”, or in soups. The root bulb itself tastes like a potato, and cooks like a potato, but can also be eaten raw. The young shoots in the spring are wonderful raw or boiled, with a taste like borage or cucumber. The pollen from the flowers in the late spring makes a great thickener for various boiled dishes. Can’t wait for the yellow flower head? Just pick and eat the green buds like corn on the cob.
Cattails store well, also. Dry the roots, save the flower head when dried, and carry with you on long hikes.
But the puffy ripened flower heads are equally valuable to a lost or stranded hiker. In the past, the fluff was used as stuffing for pillows, and even in life vests. If you have the perseverance to gather lots of the exploded heads, you will find that it makes a great insulation. Add it to your evergreen bough bed on winter camping trips to isolate your body from the cold ground. Go from warmth to heat, by lighting the fluffy seed heads. They are quite flammable, and give off lots of heat. They make a phenomenal fire starter, or even an emergency fuel.
Cattail stalks have been used throughout North American history for thatching of roves, or binding for building walls, when mixed with clay. Most recently, experiments on using the long leaves mixed with binding such as glycerine from biodiesel production have been promising. With the abundance of cattails throughout North America, using the ripened leaf fronds in construction will provide double benefit, as the decaying organic material, if left alone, contributes to excess oxygen in the atmosphere.
Cattails serve as an excellent natural filter in lagoons and swamps, where nutrients are scooped out of the water mix by the plants, and larger waste trapped and consumed over time.
By managing, or at least, utilizing cattails, we serve our own food and shelter needs, while stimulating natural environmental remedies.
Barter Best For Living Simply
4 years ago