Cattails

Cattails

A veritable supermarket on a stick, cattails were once a source of sustenance as well as comfort to Pacific Northwest natives. Young shoots can be eaten as greens in the spring while young flower spikes can be roasted and eaten like cobs of corn. Young roots or rhizomes (underground stems) can be peeled and eaten as is—sashimi-style, hold the wasabi—or dried and pulverized into flour. Early settlers too discovered that cattail pollen could be harvested and added to bread or pancakes. Cattail down or fluff was collected in autumn for use as a wound dressing or for stuffing pillows and bedding. Cattail leaves found use in native basketry.

Illustration by Manami Kimura