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Typha spp.

Cattails

Family Typhaceae


Use
Salad, cooked vegetable, root-vegetable, flour, pickle.
Sprouts from rootstocks can be used in salads, or boiled and buttered.
The young shoots and young stalks –up to 60-90cm (2-3ft)– can be
peeled and eaten raw or prepared as asparagus. See below for more!


Description

Growth Form: 0.6-2.7m (2-9ft) tall, herbaceous plant, aquatic.

Leaves: Long, slender, parallel veins. In the common cattail (T. latifolia) leaves are not as narrow as in the narrow-leaved cattail (T. angustifolia).

Flowers: Sausage-shaped inflorescence on terminal spike, cluster of male flowers above cluster of female flowers on stem, new flowers are green and turn brown, male inflorescence is golden when full of pollen. In T. latifolia male and female flowers are joined in T. angustifolia there is a gap between male and female flowers.

Stem: Tall, erect, green, stiff.

Small stand of cattail sp. (Hannah Ramer. Brandeis University, Waltham, MA)
Small stand of cattail sp.

Flower (Emily Silver. Lincoln, MA)
Flowers

Habitat and Range

Shallow water (fresh or brackish) in marshes and ponds, throughout the United States.

Season

Young shoots and young stalks in the spring.
Dormant sprout from rootstocks beginning in late summer and through winter.
Young sprouts and the bases of these in early spring.
Immature flower spikes should be gathered in spring.
Pollen from mature flower spikes should be gathered during summer.
Rootstocks can be gathered in late fall, winter, and early spring.

Uses (continued)

Young sprouts, before they break the surface of the water, can be peeled, boiled and pickled in hot vinegar.
The bases can be prepared as a potato.
Immature flower spikes can be boiled for several minutes, and served like corn on the cob.
Pollen from mature flower spikes can be added 1:1 to wheat flour for breads or other recipes. Gather pollen by shaking flower heads in a bag. Pollen must be thoroughly dried before storing for later use.
To produce white flour, rootstocks should be washed, peeled, and crushed, then allowed to settle in cold water to separate the fibers. Remove the fibers and pour off the water.

Cattail (Hannah Ramer. Lincoln, MA)
Cattail sp.

Fun Facts

Combining regular flour and cattail pollen makes flour that is rich in protein.

The common cattail and the narrow-leaved cattail are only two of several edible varieties of cattails in the eastern United States.

Cattails are important habitat for long-billed marsh wrens, red-wing blackbirds, and yellow-headed blackbirds.

Click here to see a recipe for Cattail Casserole!

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