It’s getting towards the end of the cattail shoot season and I’m so behind in my posts already. I’ve been meaning to share this while you can go out and find your own but there are still some new shoots out there. If nothing else, this gives you a chance to think about what you’d like to do when the season comes round again. I should clarify that this is the season in Washington. I have no idea what cattail season looks like in your neck of the woods.
Cattail shoots are best harvested when the plants are small and before the “cattail” appears. It seems like a lot of wasted plant when you harvest the shoots because all you want is the very bottom of the long stem.
To harvest – reach down near the bottom of the plant and pull. The plant will dislodge and be kind of slimy but it should be fairly clean. You are not removing the roots with this pull. This sort of harvest goes quickly. We walked around the outside of the marsh and pulled what we could reach. I had my husband and son with me. We each carried a reuseable grocery bag. I found that using one with a long strap allowed me to hang it off my shoulder and insert the cattails. We picked for maybe 10 minutes and ended up with a ton of shoots.
This was two of the three bags we picked. I had already decided that we would keep the nicer leaves to dry for craft projects so we weren’t wasting the plants.
Wash the bottoms of the plants to remove any dirt you collected with the plant. They are naturally very clean but we found that we still got some of the ends dirty. As you can see, the end of the plant is white – that’s the best part.
Cattails have very fibrous outsides. The inside is quite tender but all of this turns woody as the plant matures. To trim the good parts I cut little samples as I cut higher up the plant. If the taste was too fibrous then I trimmed lower. It’s all to taste. Now I do recommend that you taste a cattail before you harvest them. We had snacked on the ends through various times of the year so we had a good idea of what we were getting into. This was our first harvest.
Cattails taste like cucumbers but have this odd bite to them. It’s almost like they are spicy but there’s no heat. They are nice to eat raw but this year we wanted to try them cooked and canned. Tomorrow, I’ll share our soup recipe and our pickled cattails. The soup was okay but the pickles are amazing.
This picture was our cleaned and cut harvest. For about 10 minutes of picking and about an hour of cleaning and cutting – we got nearly 3 gallons of cattail shoots. The cleaning and cutting took a little longer than it might have if I didn’t have help.