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Saturday, March 2, 2013

Fun uses for a Cat's Tail!!! I like mine roasted with butter!

The Many Uses of a Missouri Water Weed:  Typha latifolia a.k.a Cattail.


No other plant on Earth provides more useful substances than the common Cattail.  Euell Gibbons, called it the Supermarket of the Swamp!  The more I study the plant the more I tend to agree that this plant is a miracle!  So why isn't it more popular?    

Note the spikes on the top.  This is where the "male flower" sat  in  May and June!

This little plant has been found, scattered throughout history and used by our ancestors, worldwide, for thousands of years.  Powdered remains of the plant were found on stone grinders from ancient Egypt. Indian tribes in American used cattail as food, insulation, lighting, and herbal medicine.  I believe the cattail's heyday is not long-gone!  Products made from the cattail seem like a more healthy alternative to many industrial products offered today!  



 Uses for the Cattail in 2013

The cattails root or rhizome harvested through ice.   
1.  FOOD.  The male flower (the top portion of the cattail harvested in May and June here in Missouri) can be cooked and eaten like "baby corn on the cob".  The inner stalk at the base of the plant tastes like bamboo shoots shoots or firm asparagus.  Just cut off the plant at the base, peel off the outer leaf layer and munch the white center pieces.  Eat it raw, in stir fry, or as you would any other veggie. The new spring shoots can be eaten just like asparagus and in the book Stalking the Wild Asparagus they are referred to as "Cossack Asparagus".   The Root or rhizome can be peeled, dried, and ground up for flour or used in much the same way as the potato.  The root is about 60% starch and can be harvested year round!  A great winter food source that literally grows like a weed and really needs no upkeep.  (Remember:  when harvesting any wild food, stay away from roadside sources and highly polluted areas.  Plants are natural filters...so, you're eatin' what your car is spittin'!) 

2.  WATER PURIFICATION!  These plants seem to just suck away bad stuff.  The cattail is being used right now among many others filtering plants in Arcata, California's constructed wetlands.  This area was once an eyesore and a trash heap the townspeople dubbed "Mt Trashmore". Now, the Arcata Constructed Wetlands houses thousands of marshland flora and fauna while naturally managing the areas sewage and pollution issues (without the use of typical purification chemicals like chlorine)

3. FUEL!  To be exact bio-fuel / ethanol!  Cattails are an abundant and rapidly replenished resource throughout the world.  They grow everywhere a little damp soil can exist. The cattail root and shoots are so full of carbohydrates they are a natural for ethanol production.  PLUS, they grow like a weed which means they take root anywhere without the use of fertilizers and pesticides! 
According to David Blume, author of Alcohol can be a Gas, "If each county were to cultivate a five-foot wide strip of cattail on each side of only 1000 miles of county-maintained roads,....mowers could shred up and harvest up to three crops of cattail each year, producing in theory up to 61 billion gallons of fuel(40% of the U.S. gasoline consumption)...."   



Here are some more amazing uses:  Some American Indian tribes and pioneers used the cattail "fluff" or seeds as tender to start fires, make "alternative down" bedding and insulation for winter clothes.  Some American Indians used the "slime" that came from the inner stalks as we use Aloe on burns and as a poultice. They wove baskets and thatched shelters from the leaves and made torches from the fruit or seed pod.  And,of course, the plant provided a year round food source to the tribes that used the plant.  Talk about a survival plant!  

So, next time you're outdoors and you see this plant...don't overlook it!  Let's get reacquainted to this marshy miracle!   

February 28, 2012.  Katy Allen Lake Nevada, Missouri  64772

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