Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The Nine Lives of Cattails

TO my surprise I found I could already identify many of the plants highlighted in the recent wild edibles class. At least, well enough to guess out loud but not necessarily well enough to tuck into without an expert present. While I could identify cattails and knew that they were edible, I didn't realise quite how many uses they have!
Before modern development began destroying the habitat of cattails, American Indians used the nutritious plant in a myriad ways:

  • When peeled, the white heart of the shoot is similar to heart of palm and can be used in stir fries, soups, salads, or sauteed as a side vegetable.
  • Immature flower heads can be eaten like a corn cob.
  • The super-nutritious pollen can be added to flour for baking.
  • The jelly-like substance found between leaves can be used medicinally to heal wounds.
  • Dried leaves can be twisted or woven into cordage, baskets, thatched rooves, toys for children.
  • The empty seed heads keep insects away when burnt on a fire.
  • The fluffy white seeds make good stuffing for additional warmth in bedding and clothes.

      That's pretty impressive for a single plant.

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