Survival Fast Food: Cattails Stalks A.K.A. Cossack Asparagus

Updated August 19, 2012


Cattails: Nature's Fast Food

Here is a readily available wild food that wherever you find it, is abundant and easily procured. A few minutes of labor will yield handfuls of delicious crisp stalks of what is called 'Cossack Asparagus' which can sustain you in hungry times.

You can spend hours seeking enough seeds and nuts to sustain yourself overnight in the event of being stranded in the woods alone

Cossack Asparagus, the tender white shoot of the cattail stalk

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Cattail Heart

Once the basic needs of shelter and warmth are secured, one can invest a little more time into obtaining varied edibles to round-out the survivalist diet. But for a fast, filling meal that can be gathered in a big hurry, tender Cossack asparagus can't be beat.

Other Uses for Cattails in Survival Training

Cattails have several parts that are edible. The root tubers of the cattail can be dried and roasted to make a coffee-like beverage (I have never tried it, not that desperate for coffee.)

In a survival situation it if is cold outside, the fluffy masses of the cattail can be procured by handfuls and stuffed into your clothes for warmth. Tie a string or rope around your ankles to prevent the fluff from dropping out, and stuff your pants with cattail fluff to insulate your extemities.

cattail fluff, great for insulating your clothes in a survival situation, and for starting a campfire

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Handfuls of cattail fluff stuffed into the arms and chest area of your shirt or jacket while wearing it also helps to keep you quite warm and maintain core temperature. Don't let the 'eww!' factor of stuffing this fluff into your clothes prevent you from doing what must be done.

The colors, textures and appearance may be unappealing but the function it serves is more than adequate. It may not even feel comfortable either but if the nighttime temperatures are dropping you need all the support you can get. Within several hours you will be most thankful for this insulating layer that traps your body heat.

Dry cattail fluff is also an excellent fire-starting material to catch a spark from your flint or fire piston, quickly smoldering and erupting into flame. So even if you are not hungry or cold, if afforded the opportunity, gather a few handfuls of cattail fluff and carry on your person for starting a fire later on. Don't miss the opportunity to have on-hand the materials you need to build a campfire.

Cattails of the Swamp

Cattails grow wherever it is wet. Along the edges of still or slow-moving water, they are prolific. Easy to recognize even from a distance, they have distinctive long slender leaves and tops. Many parts of the cattail are edible, but for now the part we are most interested in are the slender white centers of the stalk. When you grasp a green cattail near the base and pull upwards, the stalk usually break and pulls free bring with it a slender white stalk. This can be peeled-back a little bit if it is woody, but generally the most tender part always exists somewhere, even in mid to late summer. If you can easily bend and snap it, you've got the right part. Usually, an average cattail stalk will produce a tender edible shoot that is maybe 8-12 inches long and about the girth of your pinkie finger. As you might imagine, just a dozen of these can fill a hungry stomach!

Eat the Cattail Stalk Raw

This can be eaten directly, just like a raw carrot. The flavor is delicate, sometimes described as having a slight nutty flavor to it.

green cattails growing by the water

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This Cossack asparagus is also excellent in a tossed salad for those willing to try it under more refined conditions. Familiarize yourself with this natural and readily-available wild food before you find yourself lost and hungry. You will be surprised really at the deliciousness of this tender shoot that grows in the mud.