Cattails are a bounty of good things. Their leaves can be used to weave mats and baskets, the brown seed pods can be used for tinder, and they are edible too. The young spring rhizomes (roots) are tender and taste like asparagus. Before they are fertilized and turn into the brown seed pods, the female flowers are green and can be cooked and enjoyed with butter and salt, or pickled like cucumbers. But it’s the pollen we are after today!
The male flowers grow on the same stem with female flowers, with the males at the top and the females at the bottom. In the early spring, the male flowers produce a silky yellow pollen which is blown by the wind to neighboring flowers where it fertilizes the female bloom. Once it’s pollen is spent, the male flower dies. If the female flower is pollinated, it forms the brown furry seed spike that can contain up to 200,000 seeds.
The pollen of the male flowers can only be harvested for a short time before they disappear. This pollen can be used as a substitute for flour and is high in protein.
To harvest the pollen, gently shake the male flowers into a brown paper bag. Don’t break the stalks, just gently tap the flower into the bag and it will release the beautiful silky pollen.
We are not the only ones after the pollen! The flowers are often home to a wide variety of bugs. I like to leave the pollen out in the sun to give bugs a chance to escape. Then sift through a fine sieve to separate the pollen out. Use as a substitute for flour in any recipe for a healthier, more delicious result.
Cattail Pollen Pancakes
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1½ cups (375 ml) all-purpose flour
½ cup (125 ml) cattail pollen
¼ cup (60 ml) granulated sugar
1 Tbsp (15 ml) baking powder
½ tsp (2 ml) table salt
1 large egg
1¼ cups (300 ml) whole milk
¼ cup (60 ml) unsalted butter, melted
Vegetable oil, for frying
Maple syrup, to serve
Place the flour, pollen, egg, milk, salt, sugar, baking powder and butter in a bowl and mix until smooth.
Heat your oven to 170°F (75°C) or turn on your warming drawer.
Heat a nonstick pan over medium heat and add 1/2 tsp oil. Drop enough of the batter into the pan to coat the bottom. Cook until light golden brown, 45 seconds to 1 minute. Carefully flip and cook the other side for 30 seconds.
Once the pancakes are ready, you can keep them toasty and warm in the oven until you’re ready to eat! Continue making pancakes until the batter is finished. Stack and top with maple syrup.