Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Traditiona​l California Native Food: Cattail

Cattails: Wetlands Grocery Store!
All parts of the cattail are edible when gathered at the appropriate stage of growth. The young shoots are cut from the rhizomes (underground stems) in the spring when they are about 4 to 16 inches long. The raw young shoots taste like cucumber and can also be made into pickles. When the young shoots are steamed they taste like cabbage.

The base of the stem where it attaches to the rhizome can be boiled or roasted like potatoes. The young flower stalks can be taken out of their sheaths and can be boiled or steamed just like corn (Roos- Collins 1990; Clarke 1977).

Cattail pollen is a fine substitute for flours. It is a bright yellow or green color, and turns pancakes, cookies or biscuits a pretty yellow color (which children love).

The rhizomes (underground stems)and lower stems have a sweet flavor and can be eaten raw, baked, roasted, or broiled. Cattail rhizomes are
fairly high in starch content; this is usually listed at about 30% to 46%. The core can be ground into flour.

One acre of cattails would yield about 6,475 pounds of flour (Harrington 1972). This flour would probably contain about 80 % carbohydrates and around 6% to 8% protein. Since cattail occurs
around the world, it is a potential source of food for the worlds' population.

Newly emerging shoots of cattails are edible, with delicate flavor and crispy asparagus like texture(Glenn Keator, Linda Yamane, Ann Lewis 1995). The end of a new stem of cattail is popular for eating with Washoes (Murphy 1959). When mixed with tallow, the brown fuzz can be chewed like gum.

The Klamath and Modocs of northern California and southern Oregon make flexible baskets of twined tule or cattail. Cattails or tules were also twined to form mats of varying sizes for sleeping, sitting, working, entertaining, covering doorways, for shade, and a myriad of other uses.

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