Episode 3 — Cattails

The Radacast
47 min readFeb 11, 2020

In this third episode of of The Radacast, host Joe Stormer mucks around in a swamp to collect cattail rhizomes for their starch.

These plants were harvested on the ancestral land of the Snoqualmie people without asking permission nor being offered permission.

Transcript below.

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This episode’s recommended podcast
The Allusionist — https://www.theallusionist.org

Some of the sources used in this podcast

Álvarez , Juan A., and Eloy Bécares, “Seasonal decomposition of Typha latifolia in a free-water surface constructed wetland”. Ecological Engineering, Volume 28, Issue 2, 30 November 2006, Pages 99–105.

Bendix, Malene, Troels Tornbjerg, and Hans Brix, “Internal gas transport in Typha latifoliaL. and Typha angustifolia L.; Humidity-induced pressurization and convective throughflow”. Aquatic Botany, Volume 49, Issues 2–3, August 1994, Pages 75–89.

Brix, Hans, Kirsten Dyhr‐Jensen, and Bent Lorenzen, “Root‐zone acidity and nitrogen source affects Typha latifolia L. growth and uptake kinetics of ammonium and nitrate”. Journal of Experimental Botany, Volume 53, Issue 379, 1 December 2002, Pages 2441–2450.

Centre for Agriculture and Bioscience International (CABI), “Typha x glauca (hybrid cattail)”. Invasive Species Compendium, Last modified 22 November 2019, https://www.cabi.org/isc/datasheet/107745#tosummaryOfInvasiveness.

Ciria, M.P., M.L. Solano, and P. Soriano, “Role of Macrophyte Typha latifolia in a Constructed Wetland for Wastewater Treatment and Assessment of Its Potential as a Biomass Fuel”. Biosystems Engineering, Volume 92, Issue 4, December 2005, Pages 535–544.

The Consortium of Pacific Northwest Herbaria

Constable , John Y. H., James B. Grace, and David J. Longstreth, “High carbon dioxide concentrations in aerenchyma of Typha latifolia”. American Journal of Botany, 01 April 1992.

Grace, James B, and Robert G. Wetzel, “Niche differentiation between two rhizomatous plant species: Typha latifolia and Typha angustifolia”. Canadian Journal of Botany, 1982, Vol. 60, №1, pp. 46–57.

Jespersen, Dorthe N, Brian K. Sorrell, and Hans Brix, “Growth and root oxygen release by Typha latifolia and its effects on sediment methanogenesis”. Aquatic Botany, Volume 61, Issue 3, 1 July 1998, Pages 165–180.

Kausch, Albert P., James L. Seago Jr., and Leland C. Marsh, “Changes in starch distribution in the overwintering organs of Typha latifolia (Typhaceae)”. American Journal of Botany, Volume 68, Issue 7, August 1981, Pages 877–880.

McNaughton, S.J., T.C. Folsom, T. Lee, F. Park, C. Price, D. Roeder, J. Schmitz, and C. Stockwell, “Heavy Metal Tolerance in Typha Latifolia without the Evolution of Tolerant Races”. Ecology: Ecological Society of America, Volume 55, Issue 5, August 1974, Pages 1163–1165.

McNaughton, S.J., R.S. Campbell, R.A. Freyer, J.E. Mylroie, and K.D. Rodland, “Photosynthetic Properties and Root Chilling Responses of Altitudinal Ecotypes of Typha Latifolia L.”. Ecology: Ecological Society of America, Volume 55, Issue 1, January 1974, Pages 168–172.

Smith, Craig S., Michael S.Adams, and Todd D.Gustafson, “The importance of belowground mineral element stores in cattails (Typha latifolia L.)”. Aquatic Botany, Volume 30, Issue 4, May 1988, Pages 343–352.

Taylor, Gregory J., and A. A. Crowder, “Uptake and accumulation of heavy metals by Typha latifolia in wetlands of the Sudbury, Ontario region”. Canadian Journal of Botany, 1983, 61(1): 63–73.

Weiner, Stefan E. B., “Long-term competitive displacement of Typha latifolia by Typha angustifolia in a eutrophic lake”. Oecologia 94, 451–456, 1993.

Ye, Z.H., A.J.M. Baker, M.H. Wong, and A.J. Willis, “Zinc, lead and cadmium tolerance, uptake and accumulation by Typha latifolia”. The New Phytologist, Volume 136, Issue 3, July 1997, pp. 469–480.

Transcript

Hello, you’re listening to The Radagast, and this episode is about Typha latifolia, also known as the broadleaf cattail.

[Banjo music]

Hi, my name is Joe Stormer and we’re now in the third episode of The Radacast; third time’s the charm, right? This is a scientific podcast about foraging named after Tolkien’s Radagast the Brown, also known as Bird Friend, who cared for the flora and fauna of Middle Earth. In the same vein, with each episode I share about the scientific significance of a different species of forageable plant fungus or algae ass I do my best to collect, process and eat it.

[One single banjo chord]

Oo, baby. It’s taxonomy time. Near the beginning of every episode, I strummed the banjo tuned to the “sawmill tuning” to signal that it’s now time to chop up the lineage of the species at hand to understand where exactly they came from as their ancestors differentiated evolutionarily.

What exactly makes a cattail a cattail? At the kingdom level, cattails belonged to Plantae. These are plants; you know plants, right? They’re generally accepted to be multicellular organisms with cell walls made of cellulose, and their energy usually comes from the sun by a photosynthesis, with their DNA contained inside a nuclei. Instead of that genetic material floating free around the cell like a goddamn casserole. This contrast them with cyanobacteria (also known as blue-green algae), which have their genetic material just loose around the cell.

Now we’re about to review a few clades. Clades are a grouping that doesn’t fit into the standard ranking level of domain, kingdom, phylum, class, order, family, genus, and (most specifically) species.

[Cat meow]

A clade is a grouping that has descended from a common ancestral population — also known as monophyletic.

The first grade is tracheophytes. These are plants that have vascular passages to transport water and the resources dissolved in it. These are your “normal” plants, generally with roots, stems and leaves — so not bryophytes like mosses or liverworts.

Next clade down the ladder is spermophytes. These are seed plants, as opposed to plants like mosses and ferns that were produced via minuscule spores.

Then we’ve got angiosperms, which are flowering plants, which sexually or produced by appalling. Their ovules or eggs are contained inside of ovaries. This differentiates them with gymnosperms like pine trees whose naked seeds are directly fertilized by the wind blowing pollen onto the seeds’ exposed ovules. Angiosperms are the source of all fruit and almost all of the seeds that we eat. There are somewhere from 250 to 400 thousand species from eelgrass to barley to maple trees.

02:55

Now this is all information that we reviewed in the cranberries episode (episode one) and now we’re going to diverge. Cranberries are dicotyledons, also known as eudicots or dicots. When a cranberry seed pops out of the ground, they have two embryonic leaves that come out of the seed. Cattails, on the other hand, are monocotyledons, or monocots. They have only one embryonic leaf and they lack the lateral meristem also known as Cambium, which is a structure that allows for secondary growth of a plant, both in width as well as height. Secondary growth is basically the pattern of a tree where you have ring after ring after ring being laid down each season. Now lacking the cambium structure prevents monocots like cattails from developing trees, though some of them like palms, bananas and bamboos may seem tree-like. The leaves of monocots have roughly parallel veins, without smaller veins interconnecting them. Whereas dicots have a more web-like venation. The base of the leaf tends to wrap around the stem in a sheath-like manner.

Monocots aren’t able to form roots in the same way that other plants do. As a result, they’re experts in putting out runners and rhizomes, kinda like the way that a strawberry plant does.

And the last clade we’re discussing is commelinids. Now this clade is named after the genus of dayflowers Commelina, which in turn was named by Linnaeus after the Dutch botanist Jan and Casper Commelijn. Plants in this clade are defined as having ferulic acid in their cell walls. Ain’t that fun?

Now we’re back into the usual groupings of taxonomy. The order of cattails is Poales. The order poales is named for the grass genus Poa, derived from the Greek word for a type of fodder grass. This order is largely composed of grasses and grass-like plants like sedges and rushes, although this order also unexpectedly contains the family Bromeliaceae, which contains familiar house plants such as bromeliads and air plants, although also pineapple and Spanish moss. They’re pretty weird-looking and can be seen on the background of Star Trek a lot, especially when the sets department wants to make sure that you know that they’re somewhere tropical.

The cattail family is called Typhaceae, named after the cattails’ own genus, Typha. In addition to cattails, Typhaceae contains one more genus of wetland growing plants called Sparganium. These also have blade-like leaves except that they have these round spiky-looking flowers

And finally we’re down to cattails, the genus Typha. Typha is derived from the Greek word for this very plant. In the UK, these may also be known as bulrush, reedmace or cooper’s reed. In the U S they have also been known as reeds or punks. In Australia they are known as cumbungi. And now it is worth mentioning that although cattails are sometimes called bulrushes, there are other plants outside of this genus that are also called bulrushes.

They’re found on every continent except Antarctica, including Australia and New Zealand, from the tropics to the northern reaches of North America and Eurasia, and all the way down through Chile and Argentina. This is a cosmopolitan plant with thirty-seven widely-accepted species worldwide.

Cattails are aquatic or semi-aquatic, generally growing in wetlands, although some species can handle living in land that dries out. They have a long upright blade-like leaf that tapers to a point. They have round reed-like flower stalks that don’t have any joints or nodes, that extend above the leaves. The flowers themselves when they mature look kind of like corn dogs, but when they’re young they are narrower and green. Now these parts are actually the female pistillate flowers. The male staminate flowers are shorter and narrower and further up on the flower stalks, just above the female flowers, shaped kind of like a thin, soft pipe cleaner. These male flowers released their bright yellow pollen into the wind, and then when the female flowers are pollinated and mature, they themselves dry out and turn into white fluff that sloughs off with tiny seeds attached to them and blows away in the wind, but mostly just get stuck to screen doors like cottonwood fluff does. The seed fluff may hang onto the flower stem well onto the next spring. The smaller male flowers generally fall off without notice a bit before the female flower does. And though these flowers may seem like two individual simple structures. The male and female flowers are actually made up from 200 to 500 thousand tiny flowers each.

07:44

Now below the plant at the soil or water level are rhizomes, a root-like structure that is actually a modified stem. In addition to anchoring these plants, the rhizome stores energy in the form of starch and a plant can spread laterally through the rhizome without the use of seeds. They’ll end up forming a mat, or a tangled interwoven mess of rhizomes. To support the rhizome, the aerial above-ground part of the plant has aerenchyma. The marshy waters that cattails tend to grow in are most often anoxic, with microorganisms consuming the dissolved oxygen far faster than the water can absorb oxygen from the atmosphere. Now while the green chlorophyll-rich parts of the plant produce more oxygen than they themselves can utilize, the roots and rhizomes only consume oxygen — releasing CO2 as animals and fungi do. As a result, submerged non-green parts of the plant will suffocate without another part of the plant pumping oxygen to them. For this purpose, cattails have modified pith-like tissues called aerenchyma that are full of pores that run down to the rhizomes, which in part supply the rhizomes and roots with oxygen and carry away the CO2 to the chlorophyll-laden leaves that can use it.

08:50

The uses of cattail are diverse. Cattails are a popular food for muskrats, nutria, beavers, crawdad, moose, and geese. Muskrats and nutria use the leaves and stems to build the nests and birds will use the fluff for their own nests. Waterfowl will nest on the ground among a standup cattails, while marsh wrens, yellow-headed blackbirds, and redwing blackbirds in their own turn will build woven nests between the leaves and stems,well above the water.

But human use for this plant is even more diverse. They are used by people for weaving mats, chairs, bedding, life jackets, insulation, candlewicks, fire starters, diapers and clothing lining. Mixed with ash and lime, the fluff of the flowers can create a super hard cement.

Following an ethnobotanical survey of indigenous peoples of North America, researchers concluded that indigenous folk quote, “poulticed jelly-like pounded roots on wounds, sores, boils, carbuncles, inflammations, scalds, burns. Fuzz from mature female flower heads applied to scalds, burns and to prevent chafing in babies. Young flower heads eaten for diarrhea. Roots infused in mild for dysentery and diarrhea. (Foster & Duke) Down used as a dressing to pack burns. (Weiner) The Omaha tribe pulverized the root to form a paste used to heal burns, then covered the paste with the cattail flowers, while the Cheyenne took the powdered root for abdominal cramps.”

Now while I admire this ethnobotanical work and its recognition of indigenous knowledge, I wholeheartedly object to the use of the past tense. While the practices of indigenous peoples change in varied and diverse ways just like any other people, they are still here and they continue to retain the knowledge that they have possessed since time immemorial.

Now, I prefer to draw from the academic literature on a medicinal merits of the species that we talk about on this show. But I was only able to really find a couple of studies that showed antibacterial effectiveness in the lab, but those are not really worth mentioning further because they mean nothing for how the substances will perform inside the human body.

10:54

Cattails are useful for treating wastewater. In a designed by Cornelia Hahn Oberlander, a constructed Typha wetland between paved surfaces and a water body called Logan Creek showed success cleaning wastewater. Ciria, Solano in Soriano, investigated the usefulness of cattails for treating raw municipal wastewater, and then also the potential for using the resulting plant matter for biofuel. They found that the plants are remarkably useful for reducing biological and chemical oxygen demand, suspended solids, nitrogen, phosphorous and pathogens — particularly in wastewater with high dissolved nitrogen in the form of ammonia. They found that the high biomass and thermal potential of the plants should great potential for biofuel production.

Jespersen, Sorrell and Brix found the cattail roots contribute positively to oxygen concentrations in the surrounding waters, which in turn reduces methane production. Constable, Grace, and Longstreth found a similar buildup of in the leaves as well. At dawn, CO2 concentrations were about five times atmospheric levels, dropping to almost normal atmospheric levels by noon and then beginning to rise again in the afternoon. CO2 concentrations rose as high as eighteen times atmospheric levels. With dyes, the researchers were able to confirm gas movement up from the rhizomes to the shoots and leaves. The researchers hypothesize at the CO2 originates from microbial activity in the soil and that this could supplement the atmospheric CO2 that the plant utilizes in photosynthesis. Yavitt and Knapp measured the flow of methane from microbial activity in the soil into the cattail shoots and out into the atmosphere. They found that methane builds up at night when the plant’s stomata — the pores they use to exchange oxygen for carbon dioxide in the atmosphere — are closed. Then when the plant encounters an increase in light and or decrease in humidity, those pores open up and the methane is released. The concentration within the plant of methane drops from ten percent (by volume) to seven hundredths of one percent, which is still 75% higher than the concentration of methane in the atmosphere. I don’t know what the significant to this is, but it sure is interesting. As expected, the researchers found that by cutting the leaves, the ability to store methane was reduced in this way.

Okay, we got to food. Let’s talk about eating cattails; we’re all here for the food.

There’s evidence that these plants have been eaten for at least 30,000 years, but I would be shocked if it hasn’t been eaten by the human lineage for millions of years, especially by our now-extinct relatives Paranthropus, which had thick, bulky skulls that were well-adapted to eating tough fibrous materials. Every part of the plant is edible, though some may be a bit less useful as food. The bright yellow pollen is pretty much pure protein. It can be harvested at the right time of year by bending over the flower stem, putting plastic bag or paper bag over the smaller male flower and shaking it around. I then also like the male flowers is a dietary fiber. It stirs easily until a glass of water, goes down easily, and has a nice flavor.

13:58

You can eat the young green female “corndog” flowers like corn on the cob. You can also eat the female flowers when they turn brown but are still firm, but it’s pretty chewy and it takes about a pint that aioli to make it worth it. But with that fiber, you’ll have the bowel movement of the to century! Apparently you can burn off the fluff to leave behind the seeds to eat, but I’ve never tried this.

If you pull on the leaf, it’ll pop right up and you can eat the white base of the stock raw. As you eat up the stem it’ll get too tough, but then you can just peel back a layer and continuing doing so until you get tired of it. It’s also really nice to slice and fry up like a leak and can be a nice addition to any superstar fry. I feel like later in the season, these parts can get to be a bit oniony and irritating to the mouth, but not terribly so. This property, though, cooks right out.

Now, this time of year in the winter (in the northern hemisphere), there’ll be pointy little buds growing up off the rhizome, which are a nice raw vegetable and I’ve even heard about these being pickled. But this time of year in the winter, the real value of cattails is in the rhizome in the starch that is stored there. Kausch, Seago, and Marsh found that this starch concentration and distribution shifts in the roots and rhizomes of Typha latifolia from the beginning to the end of the winter. From November to April, the starch in the rhizomes dropped from 45 to 23% of the dry weight, which is tied to these starches being concentrated in that vicinity of these rapidly-developing leaf buds. The rhizome can be dried and ground into flour or chopped and fried to be used as a vegetarian bacon bits, but the starch can also be mechanically pounded to extract the tough fibers at the rhizome. That’s what we’re doing today.

15:51

Now I also want to talk particularly about Typha latifolia — the only species native here in Washington. This is the broadleaf cattail, named and described by the old man Linnaeus. This is the world’s most widespread cattail across North America and South America, Europe, Asia, and Northern Africa. It is also in the introduced invasive in Hawaii and Australia, and has been reported in various Southeast Asian island nations. It grows in all sorts of climates, from zones 3 to 10, but it is an obligate wetland species. It needs to be in or near water, and it is salt tolerant and can be found at the seaside. The plant prefers soil and water of acidity ranging from the pH of 5.5 to 7.5. In controlled experiments, Brix, Dyhr-Jensen, and Lorenzen found that Typha latifolia is growth is slowed by more acidic waters and stops entirely at pHs as low as 3.5. They found that the cattail nitrogen uptake is at its maximum at pHs of 6.5 and 5.0 when provided nitrogen via NH4 and NO3 respectively. The researchers suggested the cattail’s ability to colonize in acidic environments must be a result of its ability to modify the pH in its rhizosphere — the water around its roots

16:58

Cattail can grow up to 7,500 feet in elevation. Researchers McNaughton et al found that some populations of Typha latifolia adapted for lower elevations reduce the activity in the roots when chilled, slowing the uptake of water and phosphorus from their leaves. High-elevation varieties, though, were relatively unchanged, which led the researchers to suggest that this is an adaptation that would allow for them to live efficiently in a harsher mounted climate.

The leaves are about two meters tall and the flower stalks can be from two to three meters tall. The male and female flowers do not have a gap between them. They flower in the summer, with the female flowers being up to nine inches tall.

17:54

This contrast them with the invasive Typha angustifolia, or narrow leaf cattail. Angustifolia is either introduced from Eurasia or spread from the eastern seaboard of North America. It didn’t begin to spread rapidly across North America until the post-WWII era. It has been hypothesized that this corresponds to the time when roads were first being salted in the winter, considering that Angustifolia is especially salt-tolerant. I myself wonder, though, what role the establishment of the interstate system has had, whether the sheer speed and volume of the traffic might be the cause, or at least a major contributing factor. Typha angustifolia forms dense monoculture stands that exclude all other plant life. The leaves are at most half an inch wide. They have a narrower “corn dog” of the female pistillate flower and the gap between the male and female flowers range from one to 12 centimeters, whereas latifolia again has no such gap.

18:53

Now, these are generalizations especially because the two species would readily hybridize with one another, crossing and back-crossing and becoming more ambiguous all the while. This hybrid called Typha x glauca tends to have traits that are somewhere in between the two species. Kuehn and White did a genetic study of 153 specimens from four states and provinces in northeastern North America and they found that morphological assessments (measuring the leaf width, flower spike gap, spike width, and spike length) were up to 90% accurate in identifying whether the specimen is latifolia angustifolia or the hybrid x glauca. Pamela Geddes, though, has yielded quite different results. Something like three quarters of the specimens are incorrectly identified when using morphology, with angustifolia and x glauca being the most easily confused. Latifolia, though, is the most reliably identifiable by eye, though it is still only identified successfully with about a 30% success rate.

19:57

Further, researchers Larkin et all (Geddes included) found that the litter from dead Typha x glauca plants, was actually the plants’ strongest driver of ecosystem change, to the detriment of other plants. Light and temperature variability is shifted as the hybrid is effectively mulching around itself, but the new shoots of the hybrid itself are not effected by the impenetrable layer it creates. One frightening finding is that in the Midwest, the native latifolia makes up only a very small percentage of specimens and angustifolia makes up a bit more, while the crossed and back-crossed hybrids make up far more than both of them. The native latifolia hybridizes much more readily than the invasive angustifolia, which makes it appear that in a short time this native species will experience extinction by hybridization in the Midwest, with more and more of the hybrid genetics coming from angustifolia.

20:52

I checked back through the records of the Consortium of Pacific Northwest Herbarium and angustifolia has been present here in Washington state at least since the late 50s, and I’m competent in the identification of x glauca going back at least to the turn of the 21st century. There are specimens as far back as 1901 that had been identified as x glauca, but I’m not so sure about the identification of these. The specimen identifications that I’m confident about were confirmed by Ben Legler, a botanical informatics specialist who has contributed heavily to our knowledge of flora in Washington state. All that said, I would guess that we have nowhere near the same level of hybridization yet in the Pacific Northwest, but it’s coming.

Now I’d like to speak for a moment about the competition between these different cattails species and hybrid. The x glauca hybrid can the tolerate greater hydrological extremes of wet and dry. They will put rhizomes one to two meters under the soil, which is thought to make it more drought tolerant. According to the recently deceased botanist Galen Smith. It can also thrive in longterm flooding, in situations where the native latifolia suffers. Stefan E B Weiner published in the journal Ecología a paper describing a controlled experiment conducted over thirteen years in which angustifolia was transplanted into a lake which had previously been surrounded only by the native latifolia. They found that angustifolia steadily displaced latifolia in all waters deeper than a quarter meter, or almost a foot. Weiner suggested that angustifolia’s superior height could be a factor in its competitive advantage, but hypothesize that latifolia may have a competitive advantage by growing faster when germinated side-by-side. James B Grayson and Robert G Wetzel found that our native Typha latifolia tends to have fewer and larger rhizomes and angustifolia and shorter leaves, but a greater leaf area. The invasive and angustifolia devotes more energy to sexual seed production and is adapted to deeper water than latifolia, and both species tend to prioritize leaf production over seed production when they’re growing in deeper water.

22:55

The researchers Bendix, Tornbjerg, and Brix found that the invasive angustifolia is able to pump atmosphere gases down from the leaves to the rhizomes twice as fast as latifolia, which may be why this invasive species is able to colonize deeper water. They found that high temperature paired with low humidity is ideal for power and cattails gas transfer mechanism, but also that this mechanism seems to be inhibited when angustifolia is exposed to light. Weird shit.

Pamela Geddes is as an authority on the ecology of the invasive hybrid Typha x glauca and I first heard her talk about it in an interview on another podcast, which I won’t mention further because the podcast or refuses to provide transcripts of the show to the extent that he turned down my offer of free volunteer transcription. That said, though, Geddes was the first author on a study a few years ago that examined the hybrids effect on biodiversity and soil nutrients. As expected, they showed that this Typha hybrid demolishes plant diversity in the areas that it invades, but also in recently invaded wetlands there’s a spike in denitrify microbes, which breaks down useful nitrates into the neutral inert nitrogen gas (which predominates our hemisphere) but also into nitrous oxide, a powerful greenhouse gas.

23:54

On the flip side though, they found it sites that had been invaded for decades contain a greater buildup of organic matter in the soil and nitrogen (in the form of nitrate and ammonium) than in sites without this Typha. I guess that this will make sense as I think back to decomposition experiments undertaken by Alvarez and Bécares, which found that almost a third of cattail plant detritus would be left in a wetland system one year after falling. Considering the incredible biomass of these invasive maps of Typha x glauca, this doesn’t surprise me quite so much.

As usual, I’ll be discussing toxicity and the capacity of the species to bioaccumulate harmful substances. Researchers SJ McNaughton et al studied Typha latifolia growing near sink smelter where zinc, cadmium and lead presence or 385, 37, and 16 times the normal soil concentrations. They saw limited inhibition of the plant’s growth, but noted that it was the first time plants had been documented colonizing such an environment without evolving special traits to do so. It seems that your run-of-the-mill cattails able to grow in such a polluted site without any period of adaptation.

24:48

Gregory J. Taylor and AA Crowder sampled cattails on a 76 kilometer stretch of Ontario and measured for various metal concentrations. They found that copper and nickel concentrations in the above ground portions of the plant were unaffected by concentrations in the substrate and that iron concentrations were unusually low. Zinc, magnesium ,and manganese concentrations showed the same trends, while roots showed higher concentrations of these metals than the rhizomes and the above ground portions. However, the plants did not seem to concentrate more of these metals when the metals were at higher concentrations in the soil. Copper and nickel concentrations correlated more or less directly to levels in the soil (except for in the leaves, which were lower) while iron and manganese correlated to the soil in the entire plant.

25:42

Smith, Adams, and Gustafson measured the amount of 11 mineral elements in the roots and the rhizomes of cattails growing on the shore of Lake Mendota in Wisconsin, sampling every two weeks from April to October. Like in the other studies already mentioned, concentrations of all these were greater in the below ground portions than then the aerial portions, with the below ground portions ranging from almost equal to the soil to more than twice as dense in the below ground portions,. The quantities of nitrogen, potassium, phosphorus, iron, barium and copper below ground all decreased as the growing season went on; with the reduction in the rhizomes nitrogen, potassium and phosphorous being great enough that the researchers concluded with confidence that these were being used as stores for above ground growth. The amounts of calcium, magnesium, manganese, sodium and strontium below ground did not significantly change, though, leading the researchers to confidently conclude that they do not function as reserves.

26:44

Researcher is Z. H. Ye et al found the in control conditions the aerial portions of plants did not accumulate considerable lead cadmium or zinc even when the concentrations of these metals varied widely in the soil and rhizomes. They also found that the presence of these metals did not seem to inhibit the growth of Typha latifolia.

This is all to say that the healthy appearance of a cattail plant is not an indication of the health of the land it is growing on. As always, think about the land’s history of industry mining and other potential contaminants — both at the site and upstream.

[Banjo music]

27:34

[Sounds of walking through brush throughout this segment] Well hello, good morning! It is February 4th, the day before my birthday. I’m hoping to get this episode out tomorrow for my birthday. I am southeast of Seattle, a bit east of Renton in (I believe) unincorporated King County. Yesterday we were working out of property in Lake Desire. While I was driving home I saw a glimmer of cattails leaves through the trees. So I parked my car, hopped out, went across the road and I found this really charming, relatively undisturbed wetland. And I’m really excited to have found it, to explore it today. Probably can hear the cars in the background; I’m not too far from the road. So I’m walking through a lot of western red-cedar. We got some western hemlock. I think that might be a spruce over there; we don’t usually get a lot of those around here.

28:29

The underbrush is a lot of salal; I see some lady ferns and we’ve got some sword ferns. So I’m navigating past this body of water counter-clockwise hoping, to get to the densest and shallowest part of the the cattail stand. Oh wow! This is a beautiful, beautiful doug fir. It’s probably, I don’t know, maybe four feet in diameter and goes up for quite a ways. This seems like a somewhat young patch of nature. I’m sure it was logged at one time (in fact, I see the stumps as evidence) but it seems to be grown back up nicely.

And, ugh, I just found some holly, so I pulled that up and I’m setting it up on a branch so that the roots will dry out before it has a chance to root back in. Oh, cool, what’s this? Oh, I think it’s a holly — ugh, it’s a holly berry. Oo, yup. There are some real big Holly trees right here. There’s no way I can pull those out by hand.

Oo! Deer poop?

29:37

Oof! Oh, oh, oh, oh! Okay, that was a slippery log and then I just fell off of, but on that log- maybe a few different types of fungus. We’ve got some witch’s butter growing. You can eat that raw, although there’s not really any reason to; it doesn’t really taste like anything. It’s got some red-belted conk and some weird crispy red thing that I’ve seen around, but I have no idea what it is. Oh! Is this? Oh! And I think what I see here, are some big, beefy chantrelles, but they’re way too far gone. I’ll have to keep this in mind. Wow! There’s a lot of them around here.

Well, it seems to me that this water level is higher than it normally is, judging by the fact that we have some submerged grasses. There’s some skunk cabbage that is submerged a few inches. And I know skunk cabbage really loves water, but I don’t usually see them that deep. So it seems like the water level is higher than normal, which is going to be fun for me because I do not have rubber boots, so I’m just gonna wade straight out in here.

30:45

Oohoo! That is cold. That’s real cold. Real cold! I’m about like a foot deep, maybe not quite that. I’m going to stick to the areas where I see the cattails, assuming that it’ll be a little shallower. And so far my assumption is incorrect. So I’m walking out on this fallen cedar log, Oh, there’s a lot of like duck poop or something. And I’m hoping that this log gets me close enough to this kind of like marshy island out in the middle of the lake. My feet are so cold! Oh, oh my god.

And I made it. There’s some sphagnum moss forming a bog habitat out here. That some, uh, some sort of laurels, a bunch of Juncus reeds; we’ve got some spirea. I think this might be some sort of willow. Now I just have to pick out a section of this cattail community to start harvesting from. This is really cool! And just for context, the water in this area is frozen. So this is going to be real fun to put my hands down in this water for an extended period of time.

32:16

Ohhhh, and there’s cranberries here, too! Tons of cranberries. Oh, that is lovely. Delicious.

So I’m headed over to an area that seems the densest, because I want to have the least overall impact on this community. So now to identify these cattails. Its kinda hot dog structure — the flowers are starting about five and a half, six feet high; the flowers ranging from, I’d say, five to seven inches in height, the female flowers are. And the remnants of the male flowers are directly butting up against those, so I think that’s a pretty good sign that this is Typha latifolia, not angustifolia. It’s got some leaves that are an inch wide, but then where they meet the base of the stock, maybe an inch and a half. They’re not super broad.

All right, well let’s get to work. Got my trusty trowel, which is kind of sharp on one side, serrated on the other, and has a forked point. I love this trial for camping because there are a few things as horrible as trying to hack your way through a bunch of roots to dig a hole when you’ve really got to go to the bathroom; it’s just agony. Which is why (pro tip) I recommend that when you go camping, you preemptively dig a hole. So when you get to the campsite, set up your tent, set up your bear line, roll out your sleeping bags, and dig a hole so that it’s there waiting for you when you need it.

33:51

Okay, well, here’s a kinda dense area over here; let’s see what we got here. I’m starting by pulling my hands. [Grunts] Some reaching down around one of these plants to get to the rhizome. Just pulling up, tearing away the roots, following the direction of the rhizome. I’m just following the path of the rhizome to get to the next plant. This is some tough stuff. [Squishes] I just pulled up a section a foot and a half long. It’s about an inch thick; that goes in the tub. Let’s see if you using the trowel can make this any easier. The trowel does not make it any easier.

Holy shit, whoa! Is this like . . . this is like the giant skunk cabbage? There’s this giant, giant water lily rhizome! That is amazing!

35:01

Okay, well that’s not working too well because I am running into the root structures of other plants, so I’m moving to a different area that maybe we’ll be a little easier to pull up. Ohhhh yeah! That’s a two foot section. [Squishing and sloshing, and bird sounds] So I’m going out into a muddier, deeper area to see if this is any easier. [Grunts] I do not remember this being this hard to do. Oh man, my hands are so cold! Okay, it’s just too cold to do that in the water. [Clapping] I’m clapping my hands, trying to get some blood back, shaking them out. Those ones in the deep water where surprisingly well rooted.

So I’m coming back to these ones in the shallower muck. So I find one of the a dead plant stocks. I dig down with my fingers to get to the rhizome, and then once I do that I start pulling it up, figure out which direction it’s running, and I pull up other kind of roots in that direction to free up that rhizome so I can pull it out of the muck. There’s a nice long one, about a foot and a half.

36:47

Usually I’m finding these rhizomes running in two directions from each plant. When I did this in the past, I did it in what I’m pretty sure is a very dense, exclusive stand of angustifolia where I was standing on the mats; it just takes over everything (there’s nothing left) which was actually a lot easier.

Whoa, I just almost fell over, but I’m so deep in the mud, the mud just kept me in place.

I’m going to smell real good after this. I actually have a date tonight and I don’t have time to go home and shower. I do have a change of clothes in the car, so I’m going to change into dry clothes to work my work day and then I’m going to change again to go on this date.

37:45

Man! The big problem for me right now is that I’m kind of losing the function of my hands cuz they’re so cold. Oh yeah, here’s a nice . . . oh, that’s not a rhizome, that’s a stick. Now, one thing that keeps happening (which is not quite ideal) is that as I’m pulling up on the rhizome or on the plant, the rise and breaks off; it doesn’t go very far. But I think that’s okay because we will remember from the literature that the starch concentrates in the areas closer to where the next year’ seaf buds are coming out.

You know what I sure would love? A real shovel.

38:36

Okay, now I’m pulling up a nice big mat on this stuff. Ugh, this is proven to be much more challenging than I expected and actually a bit stinkier than I expected, too. There we go; two real nice long rhizomes. [Squishes] How is it possible that his is not coming up? Yeah, there we go!

[Sigh] I probably just check the time cuz I need to get to work soon, but my hands are too cold to take off my gloves. I probably should call that a morning; I’ll have to see how many of these are good rhizomes when I get home.

39:49

I actually see a much, much easier way to wade back to the shore then how I got out here. Ummm, that’s kinda deep. Whoa! That’s real deep.

The tub’s kinda heavy, which is a good sign — which means I got a good deal of stuff.

Oh yeah this is real cool. This, um, I might even call this a legit bog — sphagnum bog. Although I guess a true bog is only rain fed; I don’t know what this is.

Wait a second. I’m standing on top of a beaver home! In fact my foot just went through it. Wow! I wonder if beavers built this — this is whole wetland.

40:39

I’m just going to grit my teeth and wade back. Oof! Okay, yep, up to my crotch. That is real cold, real cold, real cold. Real wet! [Grunting] But I made it to shore.

Now I just gotta find my way back to the road. I’m not going to carry this tub all the way back; I’m just going to set it down beside the road, walk back to my car, and then she turned on my hazard lights to pick it up.

It felt kind of frustrating now out there. But this tub is pretty heavy, so maybe I had some good success. Now I’m walking through the thimble berry — ow! — to get to the road. Oh, there’s a downed wildlife habitat sign, which makes me think that maybe that area actually is a wetland mitigation project.

41:34

Well, that was an adventure. I’m walking back to the car in squishy shoes. I’m actually not quite sure whose shoes these were. I seem to remember that they were somebody’s dad’s shoes that their dad had left the shoes at their house when they were visiting. But I personally generally just save ’em for fording rivers when I’m going hiking.

All right, see you back at the house.

[Banjo music]

So I’m back home now. I have a big ol’ tub of cattail rhizomes right outside my door. First step, I’m going to do to clean these is I’m going to fill this tub with water and just kind of churn it around (knock off the loose dirt) and then pull out the rhizomes that look good enough to use for the starch and then I’ll probably bring him into my . . . [cat meow] yeah, that’s my cat . . . probably bring them into my kitchen sink to clean them better maybe peel ’em if it seems necessary.

42:40

I just really don’t want to do this dirty work in my kitchen sink, bot only to avoid the mess but also because I would worry that all the sand in the soil would do damage to the pipes. The house that I live in is definitely not up to date with maintenance and the plumbing is a disaster.

So I’m not going to use hot water and I’m also not going to use cold water because I started out my day today with my hands plunged in ice cold water and then I worked outside while it was snowing. And I’m home now and I just don’t want to do that to myself

43:16

So I’m gonna use some warm water [sound of a faucet] and it’s going to take a number of times to fill us up cause this is a pretty big tub. I’m filling up maybe like a two gallon pot in my kitchen,

[More meows, cat purring]

43:39

It’s pot number one [pouring]. I think it’ll probably take about three pots to fill this up. [Sound of faucet] Pot number two [pouring then faucet], and pot number two and a half [pouring].

44:10

Now one thing that I’ve put together for this process is I have probably about a four foot 2x4 (just a scrap piece of wood that was sitting around) that I cut a handle in it — kind of like a Zelda sword kinda like a medieval-style hilt of a sword handle. So I can use this to churn this water without having to get my hands in it too bad. I’m also planning on using this to pound the starch out of the rhizomes. [Sloshing] Oh yeah, his water is real murky. So now I think I’ve probably loosened up most of the big stuff in the rhizomes. So I’m taking off the gardening gloves I was using. I think I’m just going to use scissors to trim off any bits that don’t seem like something I want to eat. [Snip] Oh, yeah! These are real full of nice, nice white starch. I’m trimming off all the loose roots cause I think they’re going to be real hard to clean.

[Distant rumble]

45:11

Sorry for the noise of the airplanes going overhead. I live right under a flight path

[Snipping]

So you can tell that it’s a good one when it is at least fairly firm when you cut it open, it’s not like all black and brown. They might be kind of firm, but they might also have a little bit of squish to them, but I think that’s okay. You can pull off a lot of the loose roots by hand as well. I’m really glad that I used kind of warm water instead of subjecting myself to some more god awful cold water. I did happen to bring them back inadvertently a number of the old stalks that just happened to be still attached to the rhizomes and those I will just be tossing into my municipal compost.

Sometimes you grab a piece of rhizome and it feels nice and firm, and then you cut through it and it’s just brown all the way through. So it makes me kind of wonder if maybe that’s some rhizome from last year that’s now disused, or what’s going on.

This is not quite the best smelling process, but it’s also not the worst. What’s the hell is this? [Laughing] I brought back an entire female flower, that somehow managed to hitch a ride.

[Sloshing]

46:33

I think I could probably eat the roots too, but it would just be such a huge process to clean these. Oh, nice, I got the bud of a new shoot that’s nice and firm. That’ll be a nice vegetable to incorporate in some meal at some point. I’ve got a number of these rhizomes that are pretty old and pretty gross looking on the inside. I also have some nice long ones that are pretty good shape — nice and firm, nice white color to them. Ew! When in doubt, just cut into it and see if you can see a nice starch color to it. And if you do, it’s probably worth at least taking into the kitchen and giving out a further cleaning and seeing when it’s got inside. There’s a nice long one. [Snip] That’s gross; anything good in there? Nah.

Now this one — out of the base of an old stock, this one has at least two new leaf buds popping off. So clearly I waited pretty much as long as I possibly could have to do this. Otherwise, a lot of the nice nourishing starches would have been lost.

What’s this look like? Sometimes I find I make a cut in a rhizome and it looks kind of gross, but then further up closer to the plant it actually looks pretty nice. It can make a cut in a rhizome and it doesn’t look good, you know, maybe give it a chance somewhere down the line you might have a nice usable segment.

48:21

Now I’ve dumped all these rhizomes in the sink and I rinsed out the tub that I had him in, and I put down on top of the stove to receive them. [Sound of faucet and scrubbing] I have a firm bristle brush here for just scrubbing down each and every one of these. One really nice thing right now is that in this brighter light, a lot of this stuff looks a lot nicer. It was looking kind of gross outside in the dark light; it’s probably ten o’clock, it’s been a long day. Now a lot of stuff looks pretty nice; I’m looking forward to eating it.

48:55

So a number of these (well, all of these, really) have a good number of roots still attached to them. But here in the sink I feel like I’ve been able to clean them off pretty well. I’m going to give him another rinse, but I think I’m just gonna leave these roots on. So then when I got a pound the starch out of the rhizomes, maybe there’ll be some starch in the roots. I really don’t think I have much to lose from leaving them on. Some of these things are gonna break ’em open thinking here the rhizomes aren’t looking super hot and maybe I can find some nice starts like the base of the leaf, the base of the stock . . . some of them, nah, there’s nothing good; some of them I’m pleasantly surprised.

49:42

Now I’m going to give these one more rinse before I start I start to cut them up.

49:52

I agitated that real well, just got a good deal more dirt off of those. Now my plan is that I have this pot over here somewhere that I used to transport the water. I’m going to toss the segments of rhizome that I want to keep into this pot. That’s an aluminum pot and I think I should be able to pound pretty vigorously on the bottom of this pot to break loose the starches without significantly damaging the pot. In fact, i’m hoping that it might actually make the bottom of the pot a little bit flatter. So I’m just pulling out all the ones that look good and I’m kind of splitting them in half down the middle to get the insides all exposed, breaking them apart like string cheese.

[Tearing noises]

50:41

Oh man, look at all that delicious starch in there! Mm! It doesn’t taste too bad raw either.

[Cutting noises]

So any part that just kind of looks gross or whatever, I’m just cutting off. So I can already feel the starch on my fingertips; it’s like kind of slippery.

There are multiple ways you can do this; this is not the only way. So what I’m doing is I’m going to be filling up this cauldron with water and beating that starch out of the fibers and then sifting that starch out then. You can also do that as a dry method or you can also cut these into kind of coins and then toss them into a flour mill (rather than extracting the starch alone, make a flour out of the entire mess) which is something I would love to do if I had . . .

51:44

This is a two gallon pot, about two thirds full of rides them and I’m filling it with hot water. I don’t know if that makes a difference, but it makes me think that maybe we’ll make this starch a little bit easier to remove from the fibers. This is a two gallon pot, about two thirds full of rides them and I’m filling it with hot water. I don’t know if that makes a difference, but it makes me think that maybe we’ll make this starch a little bit easier to remove from the fibers. Already I can see bits of starch just kind of floating around in there.

51:59

So I’m taking this outside; I’m going to taking it downstairs because I don’t want to shake the whole house. I don’t think my downstairs neighbors (who are my landlords, who have power over my life) would appreciate that. I’m taking my Zelda sword down with me and I’m taking a piece of plywood, as well, so I have a nice flat surface to work on. I’m wearing gloves soI don’t get any blisters or anything. I’ve never done this before (this method), so I’m just kinda winging it. So I’m pushing the 2x4 down to pin different bits of rhizome to the bottom of the pot and just kind of wiggling them, grinding them back and forth. Let’s see what pounding it does.

[Banjo music]

53:11

So I don’t have any light out here. I mean it’s pretty dark and when I first started doing this, the water just looked black from lack of light. I could just see some of the white rhizomes sticking up and the water below me now is like looking pretty white. It makes me think I might have gotten a good bit of starch out of this stuff already. Unfortunately, I’m going to have to take it back upstairs to light, to see how I’m doing.

[Footsteps]

Well, the water’s gotten pretty viscous but it seems like there’s still just so much more left in here.

Hmm. This may be a bad idea, but I‘m going to see what happens with the food processor. I think there’s a pretty good possibility this is gonna wreck my food processor. [Whirring] Whoa! That got explosive. [Meow] I feel like that was an improvement, but there’s still seems to be a ton more starch left in these.

54:20

My next thought is I’m going to pour a bunch of the liquid out of here so I can really, really pounded at this downstairs without it splashing out.

Okay, so I’ve poured off about half the water and in the pot that I poured the water off into, I can already see the starch precipitating in the bottom, which is exciting. I put my gloves back on, I’m going back outside. [Footsteps then rapid squishing/thumping] Now I’m really pounding it this time. I’m standing on the board so it doesn’t rattle around so much because it’s late. I’ll try grinding it in again. Well that seems to have gotten pretty good and frothy. So let’s go up to the light and see how that did. Water seems pretty viscous.

55:27

I’m dumping it all back in the tub, along with the water I already separated. I see tons of loose starch. Yeah, maybe I got a good deal of it out of the rhizomes; I don’t know.

[Sloshing]

55:43 I’m agitating it to get it all loose into larger water mixture. To try and keep the soil loose and kind of shaking these shredded rise them bits as I pull them up. I’m trying to agitate any starch off into the water. [Laughs] Of course was pretty much all attached together so I have to pull it up, agitate, lower it, pull up some more, agitate, lower it.

56:20

Hmm. The stuff I removed . . . yeah, I think it’s alright. I think I got a good bit of starch out of it. Not nearly as much as I could get could have, but there seems to be a lot of starch in this water. So I’m going to use a calendar to pour this back into the pot that I pounded this all in, and hopefully it should allow any starch and finer sediments to pour through, capturing the larger fibers.

56:44

My plan now is: this pot that I just poured all of this water into with the starch in it, I’m going to toss it in the fridge to allow it to precipitate overnight. And also, all the rhizome fibers that I pounded the starch out of, I’m also tossing the back in the fridge. You know, maybe I can brainstorm something clever to do with it tomorrow.

But with that, I guess that’s enough for tonight. I’m tired.

[Banjo music]

57:22

It’s been a couple of days and I wasn’t quite sure quite what to do with what I have collected. I finally have strained the starch that was sitting in the water out. I put an old shirt that I use as a rag into the bottom of a colander and poured the liquid through it and with some stirring it has slowly separated out and I’m left with (I don’t know) maybe a cup and a half, maybe a pint of this starchy mush which I think I’m going to make zucchini fritters with. But meanwhile I have probably a gallon and a half of leftover water that has separated the starch from. It’s a little bit thick, a little bit viscous. To taste it, it’s a little bit sweet, but it has this really wonderful fresh, smooth texture and flavor.

58:14

I still have the, the rhizomes that I pounded that I kept in the fridge, so what I did is I took the leftover water and I threw all of those rhizomes in there and I have the pot on full heat. I’m going to bring this to a boil and cook a broth out of this. I think this is going to make the most wonderful, wonderful, thick, rich broth for making soup with. The water is brownish with just a little bit of reddish tint.

I’m a continually stirring the starch a little bit to try to work a little bit more of the water out of it. It manages to create a pretty solid seal at the bottom of the colander with the shirts spread across it. This shirt is from a union that I used to work for. I tend to use a lot of former employers’ shirts as rags. Go figure.

59:10

So I guess while I’m waiting for this to come to a boil, I want to talk about how collecting and processing has gone so far. The collecting was harder than I expected. Last time I collected, I believe I was at a mat of Typha angustifolia (the invasive one) or perhaps the hybrid. It’s maybe a couple acres (at least) of just nothing but this one cattail species just crowded in there, which is indicative of the behavior of angustifolia. It was really easy to pull that up because there was no other vegetation. I was standing on a mat of the rhizomes and just pulling it up. It was super easy last time I did this this time though, the plants were a lot more diffuse and they were interspersed with tons of other vegetation, which is wonderful. I mean that was a really incredible wetland and I’m surprised by how pristine it is. I did not see any reed canary grass, which is a really terrible invasive in wetlands like that. I didn’t see phragmites. I didn’t see any himalayan blackberry, except only at the edge of the woods by the road. But being interspersed with other vegetation, it was really hard to pull up these rhizomes. [Laughing] Also, it was really, really cold and early in the morning.

59:59 So what I was planning to do was I was going to go back to the mat of angustifolia that I had harvested a year or two ago. I was gonna grab it full sized shovel from my work and restart this process. But unfortunately the entire valley is flooded right now; the road is flooded and there’s no access. And I’m guessing that that mat of angustifolia is probably under a considerable amount of water right now. So, I’m thinking about returning to this and releasing this as a mini episode where I can collect many more rhizomes much more easily so that processing is much easier.

60:50

My time is running out to do this. Where I collected, there are a few little shoots that were coming up for the spring. But at my work at link desire, I was actually surprised that we had leaves right beside us that were maybe four or five inches tall, some of them. Now that’s a much more open, drier area. In this wetland where I collected, I was able to directly observe the redistribution of starches that the literature says happens during the wintertime. There seemed to be less starch actually in the rhizomes, but in the central base of last year’s plants (that’s where the little buds were coming off), in the base of that plant was just like a solid chunk of white and it seems that the stars had re-concentrated from the rhizomes into the base of that plant, which is really cool to see. Also, it’s hard as wood and really hard to cut through and pound out with a stick. So I’m hoping that it’ll little cook out and get into this water in this pot.

Let’s see how we doing here. Not there yet. Starting to smell a little bit sweeter, smells a little bit swampy, but it’s not off-putting. Starting to get bubbles coming up. They say a watched pot never boils and I’m certainly watching the hell out of this pot.

62:08

More and more of this water’s working out of the starch and it’s a turning into a paste, getting a little bit doughy. I keep working it with a spatula to work some more water out of it. I’m pretty excited about this. I guess while I’m waiting on this, I might as well start prepping these fritters. I think I’m just going to go ahead and throw all of this stuff together in a bowl. I’m gonna chop up the whole zucchini. I don’t want to add more moisture to these fritters, but I do want some onion in there so instead of chopping up fresh onion I’m just tossing in some dehydrated onion flakes. Some salt. I’m just going to go ahead and I’m scraping all the starch off the various corners and creases of this cloth, plopping it into the bowl, scraping more of it. Now the starch is kind of a somewhat gritty gray paste. I think this day was going to form up real nicely.

63:10

Now, I have no idea if this is actually gonna work. I don’t know if this starch is going to be able to hold together the fritters when I’m frying them, but here’s my opportunity to find out. Oops, almost cut my towel on fire again. I think this is a good time for me to take a break from recording. I need to go run an errand.

[Banjo]

H ere in my kitchen, I have some soup cooling on the stove and I have this fritter mixture, which I’m hoping will work out. It’s pretty simple. It’s just got the doughy paste (the cattail starch), some fairly finely chopped up zucchini, some dehydrated onion flakes, a little salt. Super simple. Now I have no idea if this is actually gonna stick together at all; I kinda think think it’s not going to.

64:11

So I’m just squishin’ the first one together between my hands, gonna drop it in; let’s see what happens. [Sizzling] That’s cooking up in the hot oil. So far I don’t see any little speckles of starch or dough or anything floating around in the oil, which is a pretty good sign at this moment. Brownin’ up really fast. I’m grabbing a slotted spoon for manipulating this. The oil right now is hot enough to be smoking. You got a little bit of onion that has escaped, it is flitting around doing its own thing. At this point I’m just turning it the way I would a falafel. This oil is really hot. Yeah, this is sticking together really well; I’m really surprised.

64:56

All right, well that was really quick. I’m pull this out, tossing it in the colander to cool off and we’ll see in a sec how this tastes. There’s a little bit of fried zucchini that popped off, which is great cause it’s fried zucchini. Oof! Hot hot hot! [Laughs] Well it doesn’t really stick together too well when you’re breaking it apart in your hand. Hmm. What do I think? I think that’s nice. What does it remind me of? I don’t know what that reminds me of. But because the oil was so hot, it browned up really fast on the outside without really cooking the inside. So I think I’m going to try to cook on a lower heat with a few more of these in the pan at a time. That tastes nice. Maybe some like slightly larger fritters and maybe a little bit flatter, squeeze it between my hands, forming the shape.

65:59

[Sizzling]

There’s one, there’s two, there’s three. I think I’m going to add a bit more oil to make it a little bit deeper so that it’ll fry higher up. I’m turning it down to medium heat so it’ll more slow cooked through.

66:20

Well, I’m going to try to turn these, these are pretty thoroughly browned. I mean, maybe a little blackened, so I’ll keep an eye on those. Now I’m turning them on their sides so the currently uncooked portions can get some heat, although one of these is thin enough that it really doesn’t need that at all. Now these ones are falling apart a bit more. I’ve got some onions and some zucchini just floating around in the pan, I hope that doesn’t become a problem. Well, while I’m waiting on this to fry, I’m ladling out some of this soup here for me, not a whole lot. Okay, that’s probably enough cooking. I’m pouring it into a metal strainer to get, um, most of the larger particulate out of there. I’m pouring the oil back in the pan. [Sizzling] I’m gonna urn down the heat a little bit.

67:26

This stuff’s really not sticking together too well; it’s getting pretty juicy. I kind of wonder if the salt in the dough is pulling out the juices of the zucchini.

67:38

So there’s one fritter. This time I’m making them a bit rounder, more like falafel or hush puppies. I’ve got three printers in the pan. Let’s see how this goes. Again, I’m going to talk to him some oil.

[Banjo]

Here we go! Currently frying in this pan is my last batch of fritters. This last batch of them, I added a little bit of gluten and make them stick together a little better; seems to have done the trick.

68:17

I’m pouring them out through the metal strainer, gonna let that drip off.

Ohhhhhhh, no! Oh, no! I dropped one of them on the floor. This is going to be real fun to clean up

And what have I got here? So I’ve got the soup that I made with the cattail rhizomes stuck. I made that with some sweet potatoes, some onion, some watercress that I harvested down the street, some pinto beans, and some of the honey mushrooms that I collected for episode number two. That’s pretty simple, spice-wise. Just some California bay laurel from the Arboretum and some annato, some black pepper. On the plate, I’ve got my fritters and some avocado and then aioli that I made with vegan mayonnaise, some guajillo peppers, and some cayenne pepper, and some green onion and lemon and a little bit of salt; I think that’s about all that’s in there. [Laughs] Okay, so these fritters are not so fritter-like. They’re not really stand alone; I can’t really pick them up by my hand. So I’m grabbing a fork.

69:28

I should try it plain. Hmm. That really takes me back to the zucchini casserole that my mom used to make it that had zucchini and corn and egg and maybe bread crumbs on top? I can’t remember what else, but this kind of takes me back to that; it tastes a bit like that. The cattail didn’t really crisp up except on the surface, but it’s nice — maybe a bit gritty compared to flours. That’s nice. Okay, now it’s time for the soup. So again, I would say that the stock that was made from the Typha — from the cattail — seems to just be like really kinda mildly sweet and smooth. It’s a richness that’s not really in your face, something that I’m really going to enjoy from top to bottom of this bowl.

Well, so that’s the report on what I have made and how it’s tasting. As usual, it is time for me to have my lunch, or my dinner. It’s four o’clock, I don’t know what it is. I’ll catch you later.

[Banjo]

70:42

As usual, I cannot state strongly enough that it is each forager’s own personal responsibility to educate themselves by the impacts that they have on nature, the impacts of they have on other humans, and the impacts that they have on themselves — consequences that are not only physical but also legal. The worst atrocities that humans have committed were legal at the time and so many of the most beautiful aspects of the human experience have been illegal at one time or another. Familiarize yourself with the laws around wild collecting in your area and the rationale behind those laws, and decide for yourself if those laws make sense; then decide for yourself whether you are willing to accept the consequences that may come not only with breaking those laws but also with following them. It is not only through law breaking that harm is done.

71:32

Thanks for listening. The banjo playing you’re hearing is the tune my song “Toy plastic guns”; if you’d like to hear the full version, search for it by name on YouTube. If you’d like to follow my personal rants, I’m on Twitter @PopulusEyedJoe and I have two more accounts that celebrate gender diversity in botany and related fields @365BotanyWomen and @365EarlyCareer. Of course you can follow this podcast on Twitter @RadacastPodcast. Every episode that I released will have a transcript available in the episode notes on the show’s Medium page because it is unethical to release spoken audio content without a transcript.

72:33

For this purpose, I’ll be giving a shout out to another transcribed podcast each episode, and this time it’s The Allusionist by Helen Zaltzman. In this Radiotopia podcast, Helen explores the world through how we use words. It’s a really fascinating show and Helen transcribes it herself, just as I do with this show. In particular, you might like episode sixty-four of The Allusionist, which is about technobabble. That’s Allusionist, starting with an A.

Please rate and review The Radacast so that other folks can find it, too, and if you leave me a five star review on the next show I’ll answer any questions that you ask in the text of that review (as long as you’re nice). It can be about anything — not just about science, nature or food. It can be about politics, me personally, or something completely random. But if you ask me a riddle and I can’t figure it out, I may not mention it out of embarrassment.

73:30

And if you’d like to help me get this operation off the ground, please go to my Patreon page to contribute on a onetime or monthly basis. [Meows] It would go a long way toward improving the quality of this show, and maybe someday it’s frequency. Thanks go to my buddy, Aaron, who became the show’s first patron. I can never quantify the value of his friendship, but I can certainly quantify as patronage. And my friend Elyse has also contributed considerably to improving the audio quality of the show.

I look forward to talking to all of you and next month’s episode of The Radacast. In the meantime, whether it’s nature, cooking, or anything else that gives you life, please remember to share your passions with one another. Next time it’s the genus Cirsium — thistles.

[Banjo chord]

Oh, and by the way, this show has an email address, TheRadacast@gmail.com. I would love to hear your feedback, whether it’s science corrections, episode requests, or just a friendly hello.

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