The Bulrush is a Bushcraft Super-Plant!!
In Britain is also known as the bullrush, or reedmace. An America it is known as the Cattail, Punks or Corndog Grass. It is found in a variety of wetland habitats. The flowers form a dense, sausage-shaped spike on the stem. These can be up to 30cm long.
The Bulrush has a wide variety of parts that are edible and useful.
Corms, shoots, and spikes
- In early spring, dig up the roots to locate the small pointed shoots called corms. These can be removed, peeled, and eaten, added to other spring greens for a salad, or cooked in stews or alone as a pot herb.
- The bases of the leaves can be eaten raw or cooked, in late spring when they are young and tender.
- As the plant growth progresses to where the shoots reach a height of two to three feet above the water, peel and eat, or sautee.
- In late spring to early summer, the green female bloom spikes and the male pollen spikes begin to emerge. Both the male and female pollen spikes can be boiled and eaten like corn on the cob. The male portion provides a bigger meal at this stage. Both may also be eaten raw.
Pollen and root starch
- Later, the male pollen head will begin to develop an abundance of yellow pollen. The use of this pollen is to substitute for some the flour in pancakes to make cattail pancakes. This also works well with cornbread. Other uses of the pollen include thickeners or flour extenders for breads, cakes, etc.
- In late summer to early autumn, the tender inner portions of the leaf stalk may still be collected, During this period and all the way to spring, the most abundant food product, the root starch, may be harvested.
The roots are a nutritious and energy-rich food source that when processed into flour contains 266 kcal per 100g. Harvested from late Autumn to early Spring. Yields of starch are fantastic, more than 10 times the average yield per acre of potatoes. Cattail root flour also contains gluten. Gluten is the constituent in wheat flour that allows flour to rise in yeast breads. Boiled, the roots produce a fine syrup, which can be used in a corn meal pudding and to sweeten other dishes. Burning the mature brown seed heads to extract the small seeds from the fluff, can then be used to make gruels and added to soups.
- Cattails include poultices made from the split and bruised roots that can be applied to cuts, wounds, burns, stings, and bruises.
- The ash of the burned cattail leaves can be used as an antiseptic or styptic for wounds.
- A small drop of a honey-like excretion, often found near the base of the plant, can be used as an antiseptic for small wounds and toothaches.
- The dried stalks can be used for hand drills and arrow shafts.
- The seed heads and dried leaves can be used as tinder.
- The seed head fluff can be used for pillow and bedding stuffing or as a down-like insulation in clothing.
- The leaves can be used for construction of shelters or for woven seats and backs of chairs.
- They can be woven into baskets, hats, mats, and beds.
- The dried seed heads attached to their stalks can be dipped into melted animal fat or oil and used as torches.
Evidence of preserved starch grains on grinding stones suggests they were eaten in Europe 30,000 years ago.
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