The Cattail Plant and how to use every part of it in a survival situation.

Hello my friend and welcome back!  In today’s post we are going to look at the many uses of the Cattail Plant and how to process them.  This plant grows wild in almost every part of America where there is standing water, and is a great survival food source.  Grab yourself a cup of coffee and have a seat while we visit.

The “Cattail” plant, as we grew up calling them, is also known to some as “The Hotdog plant”.  My wife grew up in Louisiana and calls them “Cat O’ Nine Tails”. As I mentioned, they can be found growing wild, just about any place where water stands year round and along the edges of Rivers and streams.  The stalks of the plants grow to around four to eight feet and they have large  spear-shaped leaves.  The stalks are topped with large Hot dog looking flowers that are dark brown in color and are best used in the early spring and in the fall.

So, now that you know what they look like, I’m sure you have probably seen them before and hadn’t thought much about them.  While, many people have spoken them being edible, very rarely do they tell you how to process them and what each part of the plant is good for.  Knowing this and not knowing how or which parts are edible can get you killed with some plants.  Let’s take a look at each part of this plant and how to use it.  Roots, stalks, flowers, seeds, pollen, leaves, oil are all edible.

So let’s start with the root shall we?  The root balls (rhizomes) can be cooked like potatoes and eaten or boiled down in water to make sweet syrup that can be used with other things as well.  If you were to dry them out and grind them into a powder, which is high in protein, and can be mixed with flour to make it more nutritious. It is high in starch.  The ground powder also makes a good substitute for flour by itself when needed.

The green stalks of the young plants are much like asparagus when steamed or boiled.  As they mature however, they become tough and stringy and also lose much of their flavor. The heart of the stalk can also be eaten and is said to have a taste much like cucumbers and can be eaten in a salad or soup.  All in all, this is one of the best wild plants you can eat.  It is high in protein and carbohydrates.  It was essential to Native Americans and their diet.

Young flower spikes can be cooked or made into a soup with a taste much like corn.  The pollen can be used in bread. You can simply eat boiled immature and mature flowers. The seeds from the plant make great feed for animals and livestock as well.

This plant also has a lot of other uses that I think need to be covered in this post.  The leaves were once used to make the seats for chairs by drying them out and then re-wetting them to create a strong weave pattern and left to dry again.   In the past, the stems and leaves have also been used to make paper.  It has a rough texture, but it will work in a pinch.

Some of the medical uses of the plant are to remove a small drop of the honey like liquid from between the young leaves and used as an antiseptic for small cuts and scrapes.  It can also be used to treat tooth aches as it has a little numbing effect.   The roots can be pounded and used to treat sores and burns on the skin by applying it directly.  The flour that can be produced from it can also be used to prevent chaffing and heat rash.  In fact, you can also use the ashes from burned leaves to stop bleeding because they are styptic. You can use the water after boiling the roots to treat sunburn too.

Once the seeds have flowered, they begin to look like big puffs of cotton and Native Americans have used them for many things.  The flowering seeds, also known as the down of the plant, make great stuffing for mattresses and pillows.  It can also be used to put inside quilts.  They make great insulation and can also be used to insulate the inside of your shoes and gloves in the winter.  It’s no wonder that the Native Americans coveted this plant because of its many uses.

The US Navy found that the down also makes great filling for life jackets and it was also found to still be buoyant even after being submerged for over 100 hours. During World War II, they were grown and harvested for just this purpose.  If you are ever caught in the wilderness with nothing to eat, you may want to look around for some of these plants as they can help you survive when there is nothing else to eat.  You can google for Cattail Recipes.

Well I hope you have enjoyed today’s post and found it helpful.  Until the next time, stay safe, stay strong and stay prepared.  God Bless America!

-The Sargent-


3 thoughts on “The Cattail Plant and how to use every part of it in a survival situation.”

  1. I learned something new. I never knew cat tails were edible. That’s good to know! 😉

    We use them for a binder in punch bait for catfish.


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