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Wild Edible Wednesday!

Good afternoon farming friends! It's been awhile. Thanksgiving is over, and follow up doctor's appointments are done, so we can get back to what is important...teaching you about your local and easy to find edible "weeds". I have 2 more on the radar, and have had such positive responses from all of you, that after the New Year I will be doing a similar blog on common herbs! We know they smell and taste great, but how do they benefit us? Can't wait to get started on that journey with you.


Today, we are discussing the biggest and easiest to distinguish wild edible, one that is familiar to every person reading this...

The Common Cattail. (aka Bulrush in the UK, Canada and Australia)

scientific name: Typha latifolia

These beauties are the epitome of edible wild plants. ALL PARTS of the cattail are edible. While they are exceptionally medicinal, like other plants on our edibles list, they are extremely diverse. Let's start with the basics: the leaves. There is a gelatinous substance between the leaves that has antiseptic, coagulant, and pain-relieving attributes. Rub it on wounds as you would any antiseptic gel. It is especially beneficial to teething babies (and adult tooth aches too) since it is non-toxic and edible. While you are harvesting the leaves, the white base of the inner, newer leaves is sweet and tastes like mild cucumber. The larger leaves can be peeled, exposing the white core, called Cossack asparagus, and can be eaten raw or cooked.


Now for the real fun. The rhizomes, or the bulbous root, can be harvested in any season (however, winter is best while they are hibernating) and processed for starch. One way is to peel it, then pound it in water to create a slurry. Pour off the water once it has settled to the bottom of the container, then add the slurry to soups, breads, etc. You can also peel the root then cut it into thin slices, dry thoroughly, then grind in a food mill or food processor to make a starch fiber/powder. Use it as a flour substitute.


What about the poofy brown parts? Glad you asked. Let's first begin with the flower stalk. When they are young and green, they can be eaten as a vegetable. The flower stalk is the "male" part of the plant, flowering between May and July. Then, tiny females flowers form the dense brown structure just below the spike and can grow up to 12" long. Once mature, typically late summer, yellow pollen forms and can be harvested from the flower heads and added to any food as a nutty flavor boost. If you add the pollen to the starch powder you created earlier, mix in a little water, form them into patties and bake them - you just made cattail cakes!


photo by Dave Speir: Prepare and Protect.net


The Common Cattail also has uses you may have never thought of. The fuzz from the female stalk can be applied into the skin folds between a baby's chubby thighs and buttocks as a diaper rash prevention. Since only the outside of the stalk gets wet during rain, the inside can be used as emergency tinder for a fire. They can also be added inside clothing for extra insulation, stuffed in bags as pillows, or even used as menstrual aids. (I will let you figure that one out for yourself). The long leaves can be used as thatching for a shelter, or woven in to a variety of products such as mats, sandals, or hats. The dried heads can be soaked in animal fat and used as torches.


Is there any wonder this plant is known as the survivor's best friend? But here is one final note worth its weight in gold...Cattails are currently being researched as a cancer preventative. Their anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties may actually slow the growth and spread of cancer. Now that's one to keep on our radar.


Thanks for staying long enough to read through to the end. You are all amazing and writing these blogs to educate myself while educating you is my deepest pleasure. I hope you get as much out of these as I do! If you have put any of these ideas into practice, please drop a note below and add a picture; whether it is a cup of tea made from rosehips or a funny hat made from cattail leaves, I want to see them! God bless you all, and happy farming.


Since I'm not a doctor or a naturopath, I will give credit where it is due. https://plants.ces.ncsu.edu/plants/typha-latifolia/, Foraging the Ozarks by Bo Brown, https://www.britannica.com/plant/cattail, https://www.ediblewildfood.com/cattail.aspx, https://plants.ces.ncsu.edu/plants/typha-latifolia/, The Lost Book of Herbal Remedies by Nicole Apelian, Ph.D

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