Cattails grow in swamps and marshes and are extremely versatile as there are many parts of the plant you can use. From spring to early summer we forage for the shoots, which are the tender young stems before the plants go to flower. The shoots have a buttery, cucumber flavor and can be eaten raw chopped up in salads, or cooked in a stir-fry or soup. They are somewhat mucilaginous like okra, so can be used to thicken soups.
The young, green flower spikes are also edible. The male and female flowers are separated by a small section of stem. The top flower is the male and is the more tender of the two. It is delicious boiled and eaten like corn on the cob, by nibbling the immature pollen off the central stem. When cooked, it tastes much like an artichoke. The pulp can also be removed from the stem with a fork and added to any number of things such as omelets or pancakes. When the yellow pollen has emerged, it can be collected and used as a very high-protein flour.
Latin Name: Typha latifolia