Appearance and General Info
Cattails are wetland plants, with spongy, strap-like leaves and starchy, creeping stems known as rhizomes. The leaves of the cattail are alternate and simple, and the stem is joint less, and eventually responsible for bearing the flowers. The stems (rhizomes,) spread horizontally beneath the surface of the ground, starting new upright growth. The male flowers consist of a pair of stamens and hairs that wither once the pollen is shed. The female flowers form clusters of minute seeds, which attach to thin stalks. These seed heads form into brown hotdog shapes and explode into cottony fluff when opened.
Cattail can be utilized for a wide variety of medicinal uses. The leaves are used as a diuretic. The pollen dusted on externally or ingested internally, aids in the treatment of hemorrhaging. Dried, the pollen is useful as an anti-coagulant, preventing the clotting of blood and thereby allowing for better circulation. Cooked, the same pollen becomes a coagulant, and is useful in promoting the clotting of the blood in order to treat severe bleeding or other wounds. Sore throat, amenorrhea, painful mesus, postpardum pain, abdominal pain, internal bleeding, and lymphatic issues are among the other ailments cattail has been utilized to treat medicinally.
The cattail has a wide variety of parts that are edible to humans. The rhizomes, or stems, are a nutritious, energy-rich food source. The stems are starchy, but also laden with fiber, so the starch must be scraped or sucked from the tough fibers before the plant is consumed. In addition to the stems, cattails have underground lateral root systems that can also be eaten. They are best when washed well, dried and ground into flour. While they are still young and tender, the bases of the cattail leaves may be eaten raw and are delicious like a succulent cucumber. The flower spike may be eaten similar to corn. The pollen can be collected in the spring and used as a flour supplement or as a thickener in soups and puddings. It contains a large amount of minerals and vitamins. The mature seed head, the hotdog, makes fantastic flour as well. It is best ground with oats in half and half proportions to create a fluffy highly nutritious bread.