Eat Your Cattails

Cattails are the next cool foraged food, writes BostonZest on Serious Eats. Picking some up from the Silverbrook Farm stand in Boston, BostonZest says they taste like cucumber crossed with zucchini, and that "The US Forest Service says this plant has been called the 'Supermarket of the Swamp'" for its versatility.

Further evidence that foraged foods are hot is the recent release of the Wild Vegan Cookbook by Steve Brill. I had my doubts about this book when the review copy showed up, since it just sounded a little too trendy to be good, but I've been won over. While it's definitely not an identification book (and is geared towards advanced foragers) it's fun to look through all the ideas for cooking wild plants. It's organized by season, and there is a bit of background info about each plant. There are recipes that utilize more common foraged foods such as ramp pesto and polenta with oyster mushrooms and fiddlehead ferns, but also tons of ideas for lesser-known plants, such as wisteria flower pancakes.

When it comes to the cattail, Brill says it's "the very best of edible wild plants," and explains how to prep it by peeling away the outer leaves of the shoot and using only the core, echoing BostonZest's take on the flavor resembling cucumber or zucchini. Here's one of Brill's recipes for using the plant, that riffs on the cucumber flavor and crunch—but we have to echo BostonZest's feelings about acquiring the cattails: only get foraged foods from a trusted source.

Vegan Cattail Raita
adapted from Steve Brill's Wild Vegan Cookbook

3/4 cup peeled and sliced cattail shoots
3/4 cup drained silken tofu
2 tablespoons sesame oil
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice or red wine vinegar
1 clove garlic, crushed
salt to taste
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro leaves
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1. In a food processor, combine all the ingredients except the cilantro and cayenne, and process until smooth.
2. Transfer to a bowl and garnish with the cilantro and cayenne. Chill before serving.

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