Preserving Cattail Flowers

One thought from my last post – if the jar does not seal either reheat and try again or just refrigerate and eat at your leisure!

Collecting cattail flowers. I have a large cloth bag that I can hook over my shoulder as it gets heavy. The flowers are in one of two states – a green pencil which is hard or partly blown, ie the top has started to expand and it is releasing its pollen. The green pencils I break off just below the bottom of the flower. The flower is not to be confused with the part that gets big and brown over the summer. There are wide and narrow leafed cattails; one has a small gap between the flower and the other bit, one does not. The other state of the flowers is when they have started to release the pollen. These I grab between my thumb and index finger and pull up, removing a handful of yellow powdery stuff – all this goes into the same bag!

After this adventure, I dump the whole business onto the kitchen counter and begin sorting. The green pencils go into the roasting pan. All the stuff which is left, after removing the loads of leaves etc (yes, there are some bugs!!), is put into a plastic thingy for draining the water off washed lettuce. Vigorously shaking this container over a cookie sheet allows the pollen and other edibles to end up on the cookie sheet. This leaves some of the larger bits of fiber in the container which are thrown out. This yellow powdery material is dried and is a very good edible. It can also be pickled.

The green pencils are now in the roasting pan. I add some water to the pan, put the lid on and cook in the oven for half an hour at 400 degrees. This material that you pick from the field/swamp cannot be stored for any length of time as it will develop biological heat and spoil within hours. Therefore, I am picking and processing in the evening or latter part of the day. By the time I get to cooking it is very late so after the half hour at 400 I turn off the heat and go to bed.

In the morning, I get the pan out and work a bunch of the warm now cooked pencils with my hands. This loosens the food from the fiber core. Now I just pick up each one and separate the core from the edible portion. Leaving the edibles in a separate container. This edible material I either dry or pickle. The dried material has a broader number of uses, such as mixed with oatmeal at breakfast, whereas pickles are only for dinner!!

All this separating is time consuming so I just throw the stuff (leaves, cores) on the floor and sweep it up afterward to save time. Maybe its a good thing I’m single!!

Any questions? I believe these yellow products contain a lot of quercetin which is a natural antihistamine. Eating this material seems to help me when allergy symptoms are bad.

Trudging through a swamp is very difficult the first time, but after that you can follow yout trails and it is easier!! I found harvesting every few days seems to work. The flowers are only available for two weeks in the spring. There is no fixed harvesting dates as the maturity of plants depends on the weather and number of heat units we have had.

Happy foraging.

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