How Many Uses for Cattails Are There?

MaryRowe Posts: 736 ✭✭✭✭

Seems like we'd have a thread just for cattails, but I couldn't find one--lots of mentions on other threads, but how about pulling it all together in one place? Here' a good starter--


  • Torey
    Torey Posts: 5,690 admin

    That is quite the list. I have done some of these things.

    I have gathered pollen and used it in muffins & pancakes. You can substitute up to half the flour in a recipe with pollen flour. Makes them a beautiful colour. I've never tried it as a thickener but I will if I can get out and get some. The season is very short.

    I have eaten the hearts raw and have pickled them. There is a wild food company in Eastern Canada that sells pickled cattail hearts. I've never had them steamed. Bet they are good with a hollandaise sauce.

    I've tried the roots raw and as far as I am concerned they are a survival food only. No flavour and full of fibres. As far as eating them cooked, you need a lot to get enough for a meal once you have removed the fibres. I've never tried making the flour. Too much time and work for very little result in my opinion. I can't imagine how many roots it would take to get a cup of flour. My opinion might change in a survival situation. :)

    I once collected enough cattail fluff to make a pillow. That was a lot of fluff! It wasn't as comfortable as down but I may have overpacked it. I think it would make excellent lining for "down" jackets, vests, etc.

    The fluff is very good fire starter.

  • Monek Marie
    Monek Marie Posts: 3,542 ✭✭✭✭✭
    edited May 2021

    Besides edible uses they are great for crafting. Weave the reeds for baskets and mats - I have done this. I made a wall hanging, let it dry and painted on it. You can use the cattail as a candle but truthfully mullein tops work better.

  • MaryRowe
    MaryRowe Posts: 736 ✭✭✭✭

    Yep, I've woven a couple of baskets and a bag from my cattails that held up to some fairly heavy use for years; When I was doing living history events in the Pacific Northwest back in the 1970's and '80's I had a small lodge in the style of the Columbia Plateau tribes--wooden frame covered with several layers of mats. Most of the mats I made of tules, which was the more generally used material, but I resorted to cattails when I ran out of tules and they worked about as well. One year a group of us got together and built a full-size tule and cattail mat lodge in the Blue Mountains in NE Oregon. We had winter camps there off and on all winter. One time it got so cold that there were ice crystals in a bottle of cooking oil left outside over night. But inside the lodge it was so warm we never even noticed the cold. Tules and cattails make great insulation too!

    I knew most of the food and craft uses listed in the article, but I didn't know any of the medicinal uses. That part is particularly interesting.

  • marjstratton
    marjstratton Posts: 1,132 ✭✭✭✭

    Good article. I certainly didn't know a lot of these uses, and the article reminded me of some uses I had forgotten.

  • jowitt.europe
    jowitt.europe Posts: 1,467 admin

    I am amazed. This is something very, very new to me. I have always admired cattails, but they were for me more a decoration as anything else!!!

    thank you @MaryRowe , @torey , @Monek Marie for sharing your experience. I know where they grow. I will start using the plant!!!

  • Monek Marie
    Monek Marie Posts: 3,542 ✭✭✭✭✭

    And if you are looking for an ecological use, cattails help clean water. They are often used in designs where water comes form a stagnant source or roadway where runoff and road chemicals are present. I have two such areas on my property where I have planted cattails.

  • Linda Bittle
    Linda Bittle Posts: 1,522 ✭✭✭✭✭

    I've eaten roasted cattail roots over an open fire, had them chopped in stir fries, and I've woven a small mat from the leaves.

  • Tave
    Tave Posts: 952 ✭✭✭✭✭

    I knew that the Native Americans used them but have never tried them. They are beautiful.

  • karenjanicki
    karenjanicki Posts: 1,001 ✭✭✭✭

    I like cattails. I know quite a few uses for them but I'll have to check this out. Thanks for sharing!

  • MaryRowe
    MaryRowe Posts: 736 ✭✭✭✭

    Found another good cattail article, this time about gathering and pickling the shoots or stalks.