Cattail Quick Pickle

Cattail Quick Pickle

One of the most useful wild edibles is cattail. It provides starch (rhizome), vegetable (shoots and immature male flower heads), and pollen (mature male flowers) as well as other useful materials (leaves and female fruit/seed heads).

I’ve missed the rhizome season, but I got lucky with the shoots while camping in the UP. My go-to recipe for cattail shoots are the quick pickle. I don’t have to boil the brine or can the jars. Just mix some brine, pour over the shoots, put ’em in the refrigerator, and done! After a week or so the pickle is ready. It can last a few months in the refrigerator. You can treat the cattail shoots like a cucumber: use it in salad, add it in a summer roll, or pickle it. I’m sure you can toss it in a stir fry, but I would not cook it for a long time.

Rachel has posted another cattail shoot quick pickle recipe last year. Check it out and create your own quick pickle recipe.



  • Half pint jars
  • Cattail shoot hearts
  • Vinegar brine: 2 cups water, 1 Tbsp canning salt, 2 Tbsp white vinegar (TASTE IT BEFORE YOU USE IT and adjust the salt; keep the leftover in the refrigerator and use it for other quick pickle recipes)
  • 1/2 inch Lemon slices (to keep the shoots submerged)
  • Optional seasoning: (in the picture) juniper berries, spice bush berries, chive flowers; (other suggestions) garlic, onion, pepper corns, dill, all spice, various herbs
  1. Gather cattail shoots from a clean, safe area.
  2. Cut the leaves leaving the tender hears to work with.
  3. Peel the fibrous outer leaves.
  4. Clean the shoot hearts and cut off a little bit of the bottom portion where it is still dirty.
  5. Cut the shoots to fit in the jar if needed.
  6. Add optional spices and put the lemon slice on top.
  7. Pour the vinegar brine so that everything including the lemon is submerged.
  8. Close the lid and off it goes to the refrigerator!
  9. Enjoy the yumminess in a week!

The brine may be a bit too salty for some of you. In that case, feel free to add more water+vinegar (1 Tbsp vinegar in 1 cup water) solution to the brine. Or start with 1/2 Tbsp salt (but no less!) at the beginning.

Check out this video for the process.

Learn more about wild foods. Grab one of the last spots for the 5th annual Great Lakes Foragers Gathering. Find out how to harness wild yeasts at Microbe Camp. Or learn to find and cook gourmet meals at Forage and Feast Camp. Check out our upcoming events page for details.

Want more seasonal recipes and foraging tips? Don’t miss a post. Join the email list to get wild food recipes and regular updates on seasonal foraging conditions in southern Michigan and the Great Lakes Region. No spam, just local foraging info.