If you’ve spent any amount of time near a river, pond, lake, or other body of fresh water, you’ve probably seen cattails. With an easy-to-spot bushy “tail” at the top of a long thin stem, these wetland plants often grow in the muddy banks of streams throughout America and much of the world. They’re also referred to as bulrushes, reedmace, punks, or even the memorable “corn dog grass”. Just thinking about that last one makes us hungry. Appropriately, this brings us to our point: cattails make for an excellent survival food.

Cat Tails

Almost every part of the cattail plant is edible. For example, before the flowers mature into brown “corn dog” form, the green flower heads can be eaten cooked or raw off the stems, much like corn on the cob. You can also peel the leaves away from the stem or shoot and eat the lower white portion of the shoot. At the very base of the cattail plant you’ll find the roots, and these are edible too. You can peel the roots and boil them like potatoes, or roast them under coals in a fire—either way, you’ll want to chew the starchy pulp off the roots, and spit out the leftover stringy fibers. Finally, even the yellow pollen can be shaken off the early green cattail heads, and used as a substitute for flour in pancakes and biscuits.

For more information on eating cattails, and some recipes using cattails, check out this article on EatTheWeeds.com.

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