Swamp things and Cattails

4 Jul

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In a large cattail swamp today, primarily to gather a few cattail male flower heads and of course to take in the surprises along the way.

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Here we see the dark green top section of the cattail which I will be gathering today. I have put of gathering foods from swamps for decades due to possible toxins in the stagnant waters from a variety of causes, it is wise to know the sources of the water your dealing with and also the area’s history as this type of wetland were popular places for folks to dump all kinds of stuff especially in the previous century. Many of the edible plants from these environments also tend to bioaccumulate heavy metals and other not so goodies usually to the highest degree in their roots but also in the leaves and stems less so. I do occasionally eat the tasty cattail shoots lightly cooked and there were many still today which were in excellent shape for that though I am only slightly comfortable with this collection site and will stick with the edible part of the plant least likely to accumulate toxins.

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This cattail area has almost entirely narrow leaf cattail Tyha angustifolia which is less common and usually grows in deeper water, key identifier for narrow leaf cattail is the visible space between the male and female flower heads (click on the side view ha photo) as the common cattail has no space between the 2. The male flowers heads are a very nutrient rich food and taste very good steamed, the green and yellow parts are scrapped off the thin woody core, so this is a top quality food if you can get over our common view of swamps and also take the extra step in doing our homework on the site we choose. I’m somewhat surprised cattail and some of the other swamp plants have not been altered into common crops here in North America.

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Here we see the early growth of another swamp plant known as bur-reed, not sure which member of the Sparganium this is but what a beauty. This plant will grow several feet high and its seedheads when mature become solid and resemble a medieval weapon head.

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Another look at the early developing plant, these plants have small edible spread out tubers. This may make an interesting edible potted plant for those with creative green thumbs.

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The red winged blackbirds who accompanied me all the time during my swamp visit didn’t want to be photographed but my also constant friends the darter dragonfly was more than agreeable to pose for a pic.

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update – This is now the following day with a photo of the dried male flower in the bowl and the small central glass has dried powdered flowers. I did need to sift the green and yellow flower material from a fair amount of woolly fluff so it took some time to come up with 40 oz jar of dried flowers. I was hoping for a higher volume of pollen in the flowers so when I gather the larger common cattail in coming weeks I’ll wait for the male flower heads to lighten in color slightly and become puffy in spots which should mean the pollen is a few days from maturity and probably will make up a larger part of the product. Interestingly the scent of these dried flowers is somewhere between corn and dried stinging nettle, quite pleasant. ciao

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2 Responses to “Swamp things and Cattails”

  1. Hilda July 7, 2015 at 1:36 am #

    I was out among the bullrushes this morning collecting pollen – and elderflowers. Very informative. I know though why I don’t collect more. The swampy areas are downright treacherous, and I didn’t dare venture very far in.

    • 1left July 7, 2015 at 6:04 am #

      Good point, along the edge is the safe, easiest and fastest and less unbalancing way to gather in this type of spot. The area in the photos had a firm border for several miles, still I experienced a few slips here and there while reaching and stepping out to pull towards me a nice ripe plant.

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