Log Cabin Chronicles

greg duncan

© 1998 John Mahoney

The Gallivanting Gourmand

A Wild Eater
On the Loose


recently I wrote about wild garlic and its growing popularity and I thought I would inform readers about a couple of other wild edibles that can be found all over Quebec and the Northern United States.

You are probably familiar with cattails. They seem to sprout up everywhere that is swampy enough. They can be used in all kinds of recipes as long as you collect them in early spring while they are still green. These green spikes can be boiled and served like corn on the cob in the fall. The pollen can be collected from the uppermost flowering spike and mixed with flour for pastries and breads.

One of the best parts of the cattail, however, is the shoot. Before the cattail has flowered the shoot will be very tender. Briskly pull up on the shoot and peel back the tough outer leaves. The lower part of the shoot - about 12 inches or so - can be eaten raw. Toss in a salad or eat them on their own with vinaigrette or steam them and add to soups.

You can also eat the tuber that is buried under ground - sometimes known as the cattail potato. You can peel it and use exactly as you would a regular potato.

There are other great uses for cattails as well and you are not restricted to eating them. Dipped in oil or kerosene cattails make excellent torches and the leaves can be woven into mats and baskets. The cottony down-like fibres that are attached to the seeds make an excellent insulating material or pillow stuffer.

Cattail on the Cob

    6 green cattail spikes
Collect the young green cattail spikes of spring. These are the spikes that will turn brown in autumn.

Boil or steam them in a covered pan for about 10 minutes. When done, drain the water and serve the spikes with butter. Eat them like corn on the cob. Serves two.


Watercress can be found in stores but a walk in the wild will provide you with a tasty treat. It is a member of the mustard family and can be found in abundance along slow-moving streams and rivers and along edges of lakes.

The leaves of watercress are quite spicy and go great in salads, sandwiches and soups. If you want to eat it raw then collect it in spring and wash it well. Late summer watercress will be a little bitter and really only good for soups and stews.

When you pick, do not pull up the whole plant. Carefully pinch off the tender young growth at the tips. These are the best for fresh dishes. If you are concerned about pollution in the water near where you are harvesting, be sure to fully cook your watercress.

Watercress Salad Dressing

    2 tbsp. lemon juice
    1 tsp. apple cider vinegar
    1/2 c. olive oil
    1 tsp. salt
    1/8 tsp. pepper
    2 bunches of watercress leaves, finely chopped
Combine all ingredients and whisk together till smooth. Goes great with fresh spinach!

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Copyright © 1998 Greg Duncan/Log Cabin Chronicles/6.98