Wilderness survival knowledge can save your life. The Mountain Men and native peoples were aware of their surroundings and the uses of native plants and materials. Cattails were often on this list of survival tools.
Cattails offer so many uses. They can be eaten, make cordage, build shelters, matts, use for first aid, make arrows, and serve as a fire starter. This unique flower is found throughout North America along marshes, waterways, and ditches. It is available throughout each season in some form.
There are two kinds of Cattails. Broadleaf and narrow leaf versions are easily identified. As with most wild edibles, know your plant identification. Nature also has look alike plants that can cause problems and may be toxic.
Food uses are most common. The flowering head can be boiled, steamed, or baked. It provides starch and can also be dried and used a s a flour to make pancakes or Bannock. The fresh shoots can be eaten raw and taste like cucumber/celery. Tubers and their shoots are tasty as well. The off shoots are eaten like asparagus. Tubers can be long and rootlike. Simply bake, peel off the blackened sheath and eat.
Dried flower heads take a spark easily and start a fire quickly. Keep your other tinder handy when using this fast burning material. Dead dried cattail leaves are also good to burn. Greener leaves create smoke on a fire to provide a smoke signal or discourage insects. The dried fluff can also be used in shoes for blisters or cushioning.
Cordage is made using processed and dried fibers. Comb the leaves to create fibers, then braid them together. The leaves can also be woven into mats, hats, shoes, clothes, or shelters. The center shaft is stiff and can be sharpened to make a short fish spear, or arrow.
The core of the stalk and lower leaf bases creates a gel like material that serves as an antiseptic and analgesic. Smear it onto sore joints, cuts or abrasions, and onto your head for headache relief. First aid uses also included uses for personal hygiene, saves, teas, and a treatment for venereal diseases. The gel material was used for insect bites and even as a lubricant.
The inner stalk can be baked, fried, and used as a stir fry with fish or other wild ingredients. You can find many easy recipes online. Check out the variety of YouTube videos demonstrating the uses of Cattails.
Knowing the wild supermarket around you can make your hunting and fishing afield more comfortable and fun.
Forage for Fun!
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