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Cooking Cattails for SHTF
I organize my prepping life by the rule of three: air, fire/shelter, water, and food. It gives me a starting point for planning and gear. Once I have the basics down, I adjust as necessary. With that in mind, I am also always looking for an edge. One of those edges is my cattail recipes for SHTF.
The common cattail (Typha latifolia) has a myriad of uses during a survival situation. Applications for these versatile plants include fire-making (use the fluff as tinder), medicinal (the roots are antiseptic and the pollen encourages clotting), even shelter making, cordage (leaves and stems), and as survival food.
The most common use, however, is cattails as food. From roots to flowers, and everywhere in between, let’s look at cooking cattails and my 3 favorite cattail recipes.
Eating Cattails FAQ
First: a few quick questions and answers about cattails, if you’re unfamiliar with the plant.
Can You Eat Cattails?
Yes! Cattails are one of the more famous edible wild plants.
For thousands of years, man has depended on cattails as a food source. Evidence points to their use as food dating back at least 30,000 years.
Sadly, we in the United States have forgotten or neglected cattails as a food source. In the right environment, they grow in quantity, are easily harvested, and are filled with nutrients.
100 grams of cattail shoots (about 1.5 cups) contains 16 calories, 1 gram of protein, and 5 grams of carbohydrates. That’s comparable with cucumbers, celery, or asparagus. Not too shabby for a wild edible.
Nutritional information for the roots is a little harder to come by, however, they average about 35% starch. This is comparable to rice, which is about 30% starch.
What Does Cattail Taste Like?
In SHTF situations you ultimately need variability. Eating rice every day eventually leads to food fatigue.
Cattails are an advantageous survival food in that they have many parts to eat, each with a specific use and flavor. Let’s start at the top.
Harvested in the spring, cattail pollen is similar in texture to flour. We, therefore, eat cattail pollen as a high protein substitute. Pollen has a taste similar to nutty buckwheat. It finds use as a thickener or as a mild spice.
The spring sprouts, or corms, are also edible. Pull them straight out of the ground and peel off any tough fiber covering. The remaining shoot tastes like cucumber or zucchini.
As the plant matures, you can harvest both the stalks and the immature flowers. The peeled stalks are similar to the shoots with a more intense flavor. The flowers, the corn dog looking part at the top, are best eaten before they mature. Once cooked cattail actually tastes a little like corn.
Finally, the roots. Technically rhizomes, are like any starchy tuber. Dried and processed into flour, use them as a thickener. Peeled and cooked, they are like a bland artichoke. Their mild flavor allows you to use them with any seasoning.
How to Eat Cattails
Each part of the cattail has its place on the preppers table. There is nothing more self-satisfying than foraging your own food and meeting your calorie needs for another day without the aid of a supermarket. Cooking cattails for SHTF has several ways to check this box.
Cattail pollen is easy to collect and is usable as a flour substitute. Collect the pollen by tapping the pollen heads into a paper or plastic bag. Then air dry or use the lowest setting on your dehydrator. You just want to drive off any residual moisture.
As a flour substitute, start with replacing 1/8th of your flour with pollen. The finished product will take on a slightly yellow color and mild nutty flavor. Increase the proportion until you have a preferred flavor.
The best sweet cattail recipes to start with include cookies, muffins, sweet rolls, and pancakes. Pollen can be used in savory dishes as well. Include it as a binder in meatloaf, meatballs, or as a thickener in soups and stews.
The cattail flowers are best eaten early in the season. Once they mature, they are not as palatable. Pick when flowers first spike up from the leaves. Simply peel off all the leaves and you are ready for cooking and eating.
Treat the flowers like baby corn on the cob. This includes steaming, sauteing, and boiling. The simplest treatment is a simple pan fry with butter, salt, and pepper.
Like most greens, cattail leaves are best harvested when young and tender. The larger they get, the tougher and potentially more bitter they can get.
Simple treatments are best for the delicate leaves as well. A simple saute with butter or olive oil is as good as a quick roasting in a hot oven.
The leaves can also be wilted and pureed like ramps. Add the puree in small quantities to scrambled eggs, scalloped dishes, or as a drizzle on a savory dish.
First, the shoots are one of the easiest ways to gather and prepare cattails in quantity. After pulling the shoots, wash them and trim off any tough portions similar to asparagus. I have eaten them raw, however, I enjoy them best cooked.
Second, they are as tasty as they are versatile. Add them to soups and stews, saute and serve hot or chill and add to a salad. They can even be pickled in a quick overnight brine.
Cattail roots are like potatoes with a little more preparation. Dig the roots in fall or early winter, then thoroughly wash them to remove any mud or dirt. The easiest preparation is to bake or boil the root. When done, you can scrape the “meat” out of the root with your teeth. Think artichoke! They are best served with butter.
Second, if you wish to preserve the roots for the long term, it is best to make flour. Peel the roots removing the outer fibrous layer. Then dry in a warm oven (200 degrees) overnight. The dry roots are then ground or powdered and sifted to collect the fine flour.
Finally, your cattail flour is then a partial substitute for wheat or acorn flour. Add it to muffins, cookies, or bread. Be sure to use some high gluten wheat flour with it or your final product will be too dense.
- 1 cup flour
- 1 cup cattail pollen
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 eggs
- 2 cups of milk
- ½ cup honey
- 1 tbsp vanilla
- ¼ cup oil
- Mix all dry ingredients
- Add all wet ingredients
- Mix until the ingredients form a light batter
- Pour the batter on a greased pan
- Flip once the bottom has browned
- The pancakes are done when they spring back from a
light touch and are browned on the second side
- 3 tbsp baking powder
- 1⅓ cup flour
- ¼ cup cattail pollen
- 1 tsp salt
- 4 tbsp shortening
- ⅓ cup milk
- Preheat oven to 425 degrees
- Mix all dry ingredients
- Cut the shortening into the try ingredients
- Add the milk
- Mix until the ingredients form a light dough
- Pat the dough to a thickness of ½ to ¾ of an inch
- Cut into 6 biscuits
- Bake for 20 minutes
- Young cattail greens
- 1-2 tsp olive oil or other fat (e.g. bacon fat)
- Lemon juice
- Wash and rinse the greens
- Pat dry
- Roughly chop greens to 6” lengths
- Heat a pan with the oil or fat
- Add greens
- Saute until lightly wilted
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Add lemon juice to taste
Cattails are a wonderful gift to preppers, bush crafters, foragers, and anyone interested in taking control of their food security. They grow in abundance and, those in the know harvest them throughout most of the year.
Cattail is not only plentiful, but it is also versatile and the perfect supplement for your SHTF recipes.
Preppers should be aware of surefire alternates for most aspects of life. Cattails fit the bill for several aspects but excel as survival food. They are easy to gather and use, while they provide an abundance of calories.
Even better they are delicious and can add depth to your survival eating. Head to your local wetland and augment your survival knowledge with our cattail recipes.