Tag Archives: cattails

Every fisherman starts out as a boy or a girl.

My love of fishing, or at least of watching fishing, started as a toddler.  I would wake up on Sunday mornings, 6am and watch fishing shows on TV.  Later on I got a little more participative and I remember having the best experiences of actually fishing.  Waking up early, rowing out with Grandma, Grandpa, and parents in tow.  Yes, I was so strong then I rowed them.  Well not really, but I was so enthusiastic it seemed to me we were powered on that enthusiasm alone.

I’ve been fishing with Alex once since we began this project and the successful outcome of today’s meal was NOT due to my fish whispering skills.  All the fish we ate for this meal were the product of Alex’s last trip to the Thornapple River and a generous donation from our friend John.  The menu was as follows.

Breaded and Fried Catfish/Blue Gill

  • All the Catfish and Blue Gill fillets
  • 2 eggs
  • Breading made from Veggie Chips
  • Vegetable oil
  1. Heat the vegetable oil until at frying temperature.
  2. Dip fish fillet into eggs, into breading and place gently into the pan with oil.
  3. Fry until fish is cooked and breading is crispy and brown.
Sauteed Cattail Shoots
The Cattails were as always, DELICIOUS.  As for the fish, we were amazing at how good the breading turned out!  Veggie chips are definitely a new twist on breading for fish.  The fish was cooked to perfection also.  Who would’ve thought Alex knew how to cook fish so well?

-Sam
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Cattail Soup

Sam came over today for our second foraged meal of Cattail soup. Preparing it was relatively easy. The rice sat simmering away as Sam cleaned and separated the massive clump of wild onions and I started simmering the sesame seeds and carrots (Queen Anne’s Lace) in a handsome amount of olive oil. With the wild onions cleaned it was few simple chops and into the pan they went. Then Sam took over the cutting board and began slicing the cattails into bite size pieces with great finesse, as only a fencer could.

With the rice close and our Cattails, Wild Onion and Carrots simmering beautifully Sam and I could step back and enjoy the sounds and smells of the kitchen. When everything was ready we added the veggies to the rice along with 4 cups of chicken broth and let it cook for another 15 minutes.

We decided to deviate from the recipe, but only slightly, and add some Herbs de Provence. The 15 minute wait was excruciating for Sam as she had skipped lunch and was “dieing” of hunger.  With the clock striking 6:30 we turned off the heat and ladled out the soup into two bowls and were happy to see we would definitely have leftovers. At the table we spooned the soup into our mouths so quickly we got burnt, oops.

Caution Hot!

Sam grabbed some bread so we could at least taste the broth without suffering the heat. Soon enough we were like Goldilocks, enjoying soup that was just right.  The soup was very good and now having had Cattails twice I can confidently describe the taste. It is has a sweet yet fishy taste much like imitation crab and the ends are so soft you hardly know they are there, however the green sections have a crunch to them. The Queen Anne’s Lace is extremely comparable to store bought carrots except that they are white and not orange.

Now after two meals I am feeling even better about our experience thus far. It is so much fun walking through swamps and fields with Sam and discovering wild edibles, as well as sharing the kitchen cooking a shared meal. We can’t wait to share our next meal with you and we hope you enjoy our journey as much as do.

– Alex

Our second meal is tomorrow. Will you cook with us?

As those of you who live in Michigan know, it has been raining all week.  Due to this fact, neither Alex or I have gotten outside to forage for our second meal.  So…we were so very thankful when we awoke to a cloudy, but RAIN FREE sky this morning!

Our recipe tomorrow will once again focus on the wonder plant, CATTAILS.

Cattail and Wild Rice Soup

  • 1 cup dry wild rice (produces 4 cups of rice when cooked)
  • 2 cups cattail shoots, sliced (about 30 cattails)
  • 2 tbsp Sesame oil
  • 1/2 cup chopped green onion
  • 2 tsp salt
  1. Wild rice should be cooked until tender.
  2. Saute the onions and cattail shoots in sesame oil in a heavy-bottomed soup pot, until they become tender and translucent.
  3. Add to the pot, the cooked rice, 4 cups of chicken broth (or other soup stock of choice) and also add salt.
  4. Simmer the mixture in the pot for 15-20 minutes and serve!
Our foraging experience began where it did last time, at  a Cattail swamp.  We were soon forced to forage elsewhere for cattail shoots though due to a small harvest.  Walking closer to the lake, Alex and I found the El Durado of Cattails!  Furthermore, we met one of my super nice neighbors who showed us once of her paths right down to the shore of the lake.  Lo’ and behold, we found the largest cattails as of yet!  We concluded the most likely, the cattail swamp we found them in was more mature.  
IMPORTANT OBSERVATION!  We thought it necessary to mention that in their young stage, Lilies tend to look very similar to cattail shoots.  Lilies are NOT edible.  Example below.

Lilies: Slightly purple. Cattails: Not purple.

I can’t imagine how grateful, and not mention sick of, the Native Americans who utilized Cattails were at this time of the year.  There really isn’t much other vegetation available for consumption right now.  Fortunately, the sprouting flowers and plants are pregnant with edible possibilities for later this spring and summer!

– Sam

Earth Day – Our First Meal

Today is EARTH DAY 2011!!!  Alex and I enjoyed a beautifully cloudy and chilly celebration of our mother earth cooking up our first officially foraged meal.  It was so exciting watching the fruits of our labors meld into a delicious concoction.  The scent of sesame and onion filled the kitchen and set our mouths a-watering.

For those who are interested in what we cooked, here is our menu below.

Menu

Wilted Dandelion Salad

  • 2 Tbsp Olive Oil
  • 2 cloves Minced Garlic
  • 2 Tsp Balsamic Vinegar
  • Dandelion leaves from 6 plants approx.
  • Salt & Pepper to taste
  1. Brown the minced garlic in olive oil, add dandelion leaves, mixing thoroughly to make sure all the leaves are coated in oil, add vinegar, salt and pepper to taste, remove from heat once the leaves are just slightly wilted.

Cattail Stir-Fry

  • 4 Tbsp Olive Oil
  • 2 Tbsp crushed Sesame Seeds
  • Wild onions
  • Cattails
  • Salt & Pepper to taste
  • 1 cup uncooked brown rice
  1. Roast Sesame seeds in olive oil on low until you can smell their aroma, add the diced up stalk of the green onion and sautee on low for another 2 minutes.  Add the onion bulbs, chopped to bitesize, and  cattails (cut to about 1-inch long), sautee for approx. 3 minutes.  Add a little water and cover pan, let simmer until the cattails become translucent.  Add cooked rice, stir, salt & pepper to taste.  Serve and enjoy!

Candied Violets

Before baking

After baking

  • 1 egg white
  • sugar
  • wild violets (icluding stems) washed!
  1. In bowl, beat egg whites with a wire whisk just until frothy. Place sugar in another bowl.   Taking one violet at a time, pick it up by the stem and dip into egg whites, covering all surfaces.  Gently dip into the sugar, covering the entirety of the flower.  Place on wax paper-lined baking sheets and snip off the stems.  Using a toothpick, open petals to original shape.  sprinkle sugar on any uncoated areas.  Dry in a 200 degree oven for 30-40 minutes or until sugar crystallizes.  Remove violets to wire rack, sprinkle again with sugar if violets appear syrupy.  Cool.  Store in airtight containers with wax paper between layers.
    Nutrition Facts   (1 Flower = 1 serving = 3 calories, 0 fat, 0 cholesterol, 9 mg sodium, 1g protein, trace carbohydrates, 0 fiber)

Our Meal Review

The meal as a whole was delicious!  We especially enjoyed the cattails and  onion, but they were a lot sweeter than we thought they would be.  The flavors were subtle and pleasant, and they complimented each other extremely well.  The candied violets were messy, but uber sweet and surprisingly, they tasted like a combination of berries and leafy greens (it might sound odd, but it tasted amazing!).

For all our praise and enjoyment, this is a learning experience and there are some changes we’ll make next time.  For example, when adding vinegar to the dandelion salad, the rule of thumb should be LESS IS MORE!  Also very important, make sure to not over-wilt the dandelion leaves.  As with the aforementioned vinegar, less is also more when it comes to the amount of egg white and sugar coated on the violets.  Our violets didn’t crystallize all the way through, even though we baked them for the allotted time, and proved to be a gooey mess.  If you decide to use our recipe, we advise an application of non-stick spray to the wax paper prior to preparing the violets.

This meal was many things.  It was fun to research, clean, prepare, cook, present, photograph, ingest, delight in and ruminate on.    One thing it wasn’t?  Hard, expensive, inedible (thank goodness) or gross!    I honestly cannot believe all the produce that was right in our metaphorical backyard.  Nor did we have to search for days to find it!  The hardest thing about preparing for this meal was waiting for a day…in April…in Michigan, with good weather.

– Sam and Alex

P.S. For more photos check out our Facebook page

Our First Foraging Experience

Sam and I awoke this morning with smiles toward the beautiful day! Bright sunny skies and 50 degree weather lightened our spirits as we gathered our supplies and set off on our first foraging experience. We took a basket, a shovel and a knife along so that we could be sure to gather all the wild edibles we came across.

Having done some preliminary scouting we knew for the most part what we needed and where we were headed. Our first stop was the Cattail bed near Sam’s house. Sam went into the water with her tall rubber boots and quickly discovered that though the day was warm the water was still very cold! So we traded boots and I stepped into the water and began pulling Cattails.

Cattails and numb hands

Picking Cattails is a trickier process than I had expected. It requires a strong grip and a slow but forceful pull. If you pull to quickly they tend to break off too high and you miss out on the soft white bottom where the Cattail is the best tasting. Needless to say Sam and I broke a few before we got the hang of it. On one of the last Cattails I pulled from the water I got the root and all. The roots are usually much better later in the season after they have had some time to grow  but we will still be able to enjoy this accidental treat.

After we had picked what we thought was enough for the two of us we moved on to the Wild Onions we had found on our earlier search. We dug the Onions up with a shovel and shook the dirt off as best we could all the while being careful not to hurt the young onions and picking the worm out of the root clumps. The best part about digging onions is the smell! Sam kept exclaiming how wonderful the smell was as we broke the onion clumps apart and breathed deep. With more Onions than we could count we headed back for home. Along the way we came across a few great big dandelions and gathered them up for a salad with our Earth Day meal. Once in Sam’s kitchen we cleaned our forage and laid them out to dry on the counter so we could see just how much we had gathered from Mother Nature.

Sam and I are so excited for our first meal tomorrow! We had a great time foraging for our food this morning and should have a great time preparing and eating our wild edibles tomorrow. We’ll be sure to share the experience.

– Alex

Off Wild Whitneyville Road

Today on the bright and chilly morning of April 12th, Alex and I went on our first vegetation foraging mission.  Well, I suppose it was more of a reconnaissance mission due to the fact that we didn’t bring any edibles back with us.  We were, however, ecstatic to discover there to be so much more in our backyard than we thought there to be!

For the past two days, we have been deeply engrossed in the process of creating our Earth Day menu and this morning we awoke with foraging anticipation!  Although, I would be lying if I said it wasn’t tinged with a little disappointment from our last unsuccessful fishing trip.  We knew this foraging experience wasn’t going to be a walk in the park (or the woods, pun intended), but we desperately wanted a little success to give our morale a boost.

Prior to setting out this morning, Alex and I had a general idea of the plants we were going to look for.

1)  Cattails

2)  Dandelions

3)  Nettles

We decided these plants would be included in our first meal because not only are they all edible this time of the year, but we are familiar with and confident that we can locate and identify them correctly.  The last thing we would want to do on our first meal is to eat something inedible.  No thank you!

We first began foraging for Cattails.  Now depending on the area you are in, find a Cattail stand might be difficult.  Fortunately for us, we have ready access to a lake and the adjacent marshes/swamps/stagnant water.  Lo’ and behold, less than 5 minutes after we began foraging, we came to a dense, year old Cattail Stand.  Apparently, looking for last years vegetation is the best way to find new growth this time of the year.  And did we find it!

Cattail Shoots

Then we had to taste them.  Apparently they taste like Asparagus.

They're raw and already delicious!

Check out the Cattail tops from last season!  This truly is a wonder plant.  There are uses for every part of the plant.  The fluff at the top can staunch blood and be used as insulation to name a few.

Finding this soon-to-be dense, stand of Cattails will be a valuable resource for our meals to come!

We then continued walking and found what are without a doubt, wild onions!  And not just a few, a whole ton of them!  Another perfect addition to our meals.

Wild baby Onions!

In addition to these, we found early stage Dandelions and Nettles (for our salads) and what might be wild carrots and strawberries!

It is sufficient to say, our second foraging trip (this time for plants) was EXTREMELY successful 🙂  Both Alex and I have renewed hope for this venture of ours.  It might be a lot of veggies and little animal protein, but who knows what we may find and learn to catch.

-Sam