More Cattail Capers

Shopping at the Cattail Swamp in late August

Saturday I took my lovin husband, Jason, to the Cattail swamp.  It was his first visit.  Being an artist, he relished the scenery: the bubbling stream, towering forest as a back drop, and the endless swamp of Cattail heads swaying in the brisk breeze.

The Cattail Stream

I asked him to video me teaching all of you about the gift of Cattail.  Though there were Cattails in various stages present, they were mostly in the brown cob stage where the green female cob had been pollinated and has gone to seed. They look like hot dogs on a stick.  Linda Runyon, my esteemed wild hero, had told me that this was the FLOUR stage and to gather 10 cobs for a loaf of bread.

So I did.

My Foragers Basket: Cattail, Sumac, Milkweed, Evening Primrose fruits

Back home, I twisted the brown cobs to see what there was to see.  They did not burst into soft fluff so I felt like I had them at the right time.  BUT it looked kinda fluffy nonetheless and I wrote a quick SOS to Linda.

Dear Mentor,
Here is one of the many times when I wish I could go back in time with you to your Cattail swamp days and help you forage and cook with your wild findings.
I collected 12 brown Cattail cobs yesterday to make flour for bread.
You write about it so poetically in your Field Guide.  There are no specifics on how you do it just that you did.
SO please enlighten me. I have the fresh brown cobs.  What do I do with them?  They are tight and don’t break open easily so they are not totally fluff yet.  The female green flower heads are gone, so is the male pollen.  I collected lots of that this Summer.
If you can answer me quickly I would appreciate it.   My Wild Dinner is this Tuesday night!
Eager to hear from you. Holly

Linda’s answer

Holly,  I think you have the mushy, almost fluff, but not quite insides????   I put this through a hand grinder, a very old $1 meat grinder…..I did it more than once, until the substance becomes more and more floury……There is a time to do this, before the insides pop…When is it too late?… When you break the cob in half and the fluff flies out like milkweed fluff from its pod…..It is too late then for flour…..if it is a couple of weeks before, the substance should become more and more aTHICK meaty flour, which I mixed in egg and made Cattail biscuits…..here’s hoping!   Good luck with your dinner………me

So not having a meat grinder I put the brown meaty heads in my food processor and ground it down to fluff.  Did it several times but it remained…fluff.  I proceeded on in faith and with not a small amount of curiosity.
Today for lunch I waited till I was really hungry and made the Cattail Casserole that Linda has in her recipe section of her amazing work, The Essential Wild Food Survival Guide.  I halved the recipe: 1 cup of Cattail fluff, 1/2 cup of bread crumbs, a bit of water, Queen Anne’s lace salt and Thyme dried for flavor.  It looked for all the world like the stuffing of a 1930’s pillow or like bedding for mice.  My stomach churned as I worked on, greased the casserole dish, heated the oven to 325 and set my Cattail creation in to bake for 25 minutes.  While waiting I set the table nicely, made a quick salad and an heirloom tomato slice topped with Dandelion and Chickweed Balsamic Vinegar (that my friend had made for my birthday), poured myself a cup of Yerba Mate, Chicory root iced herbal ‘coffee’ and bounced on my trampoline for 5 minutes waiting for the kitchen timer to say ‘soups on’.

Not exactly appetizing in appearance

In all of my wild escapades, this one was the most suspicious looking and the most outrageous.  Still I have complete faith in Linda, who lived off the land for 26 years…totally off the grid…Linda discovered and consumed all of the wild blessings that God had pocketed in the Adirondack wilderness for her provision and later in the Arizona desert.  She is not just knowledgeable but experienced.  Her books are my most turned to of all of my wild library, infact I carry the Survival Guide with me whenever I am out ‘shopping’.

The timer dinged.  I filled my plate and….

My Wild Lunch

It was surprisingly good.  The texture could have been improved with another egg perhaps. Overall it was a very filling and tasty wild dish.  I also had an epiphany,  this could be part of a homemade mix in my dog food for Skipper.  I gave him the remains of my lunch and he ate it readily enough.   Another tweak: I might try is to add Cattail fluff to other casseroles to stretch them further and definitely, it will be the stuffing in my Thanksgiving turkey (which I have high hopes of shooting myself this year), and I think a few walnuts or roasted hickory nuts would be a nice touch.

Just had to share!
Wild blessings abound
Holly
PS a few of the wild teas I’ll be serving at the Wild Foods Italian Feast Tuesday night!

Wild Teas ready for my WILD dinner tomorrow

Comments

  1. Yikes…you are just amazing, girl! Timing is the key to a more flour substance. Note the time today, and keep track of the green pods next year. Just as the green TURNS to beige brown, and the few weeks after, is the BEST time to gather the pods for flour. The substance is NOT as fluffy as now and you will have a more flour like substance to bake with. Nutritionally, I would guess it is much the same anytime. Now, you might try peeling the stalks for the delicious white pith inside…..this pith is what I relish as pickles. Have you tried that yet, Holly? Put yourself on the top of the list for pluckiness and keep trying and before you know it, next season will fall into place flawlessly. with love, Linda

    • Wow do I ever feel blessed that you would respond on my blog! So I missed the flour stage?
      I’ve been to the Cattail swamp many times this Summer but it had been 3 weeks since my last excursion. So how do you tell from just lookin that the ‘flour’ stage is upon us? Is there a ‘squeeze test’? Still I want to harvest more of the fluff because it tastes not bad at all and Skipper LOVES it. VERY very filling as well, amazinglyl so. I have this vision for wild dog food recipe that may just be what feeds my puppy healthier than I can buy and a whole lot cheaper. I’ll blog about it after I’ve experimented a bit.
      Thanks Linda for helping me yet again!
      Go to http:/ofthefield.com to check out the best foraging website in the world. Linda’s forum has foragers from the world over sharing their wisdom from the wild. Linda also has a new book that just released called, EAT THE TREES! A must read! Trees are my next horizon. I plan to climb them, swing from them, hug them, tap them, crack nuts, make flour from their inner bark and eat their buds and leaves. Linda tells the skinny on how it’s done delectably and nutritionally. It’s how she survived and thrived in the wild for 26 years!

  2. Holly! You do and know some amazing things. If the Mayans are right about 2012, you will be the lady to know 🙂 I am going to have to check out Linda’s book, Mmmmm can’t wait to eat weeds and trees. he he he

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