Young cattail shoots are juicy, crisp and mild, with a slightly spicy, peppery finish. They are very simple to gather, and can be harvested quickly (learn to harvest cattails HERE). They also form large, dense stands, so overharvesting them is difficult. You won’t need to worry about taking a few dozen shoots from a healthy cattail swamp. Cattails, by their very nature, hold up well in the water. The structure of the plant allows i
t to absorb water into little pockets, while maintaining it’s structure, much like a sponge. The flavor, texture, and structure of cattail shoots makes an excellent quick pickle.
Gather 30-40 cattail shoots. Rinse them thoroughly, and cut off the bottom 1/8-1/4 inch to make sure that all dirt has been removed. Cut off the bottom 2-3 inches and discard the tops. Then remove the fibrous outer layers from each shoot. Along with your cattail shoots, peel half a dozen cloves of garlic and slice 1/4 of a white onion. You can use more or less onion and garlic, to taste.You will also want some pickling spices (I used peppercorns and allspice) and pickling brine (2 cups water + 2 cups vinegar + 2 tablespoons kosher or pickling salt). Finally, slice a lemon into wedges.
Sterilize a few wide mouth jars in a water bath. Bring the brine to a boil. Pack your pickles into the hot jars in the following order: Put the pickling spices and garlic into the bottom, pack the cattail shoots and onions upright, lay 2 lemon slices on top, then ladle the brine into the jar. The lemon wedges are important. Without them, the cattail shoots will float up out of the brine and won’t pickle properly.
Put the caps on your jars and refrigerate them for 24-48 hours. Quick pickles can last a month or longer in the refrigerator, and the flavor will continue to develop over time. Because the lemon is used to keep the shoots submersed, these pickles have a citrus tang that really complements the peppery taste of the cattail. A delicious addition to an afternoon snack plate.
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