I’m in love with light. When I showed this set of images to my granddaughter, she wondered what those were and she said, “It’s really pretty.” Pretty because of the light.
I’ve always enjoyed cattails. These are how they appear after being ravaged over our harsh winter. Beneath the dry golden stalks are young sprouts in the water, soon to emerge. There was a time when they served more than a pretty image for photographers or sturdy stalks to be picked in early autumn for their aesthetic appeal in home decorating. People used to rely upon them as a staple vegetable.
They’d pick the mostly white, tender spring shoots. The Chipewyan called them tlh’oghk’a (grass fat) because the spring rhizomes looked just like white fat. They would peel and eat the rhizomes raw or roasted; others were dried and ground to later be cooked like porridge. Just like different cultures these days are known to cook or prepare a food item in different ways, so too did the native peoples. The Cree, for instance, collected the rhizomes after they bloom (in early autumn rather than spring) and would either eat them raw or dipped in boiling water. Sounds like an appetizer.
Something I recently learned is that the flower stalks were also eaten. I’m sure they would look at these and think of what a waste it had been. If you’ve ever noticed cattail stalks in the autumn you’ll have noticed they are more mature at the top (male flowers) and tighter and somewhat green (female flowers) at the bottom of each stalk. The female flowers were boiled or roasted right on the stalk, much like corn on the cob, and eaten in the same way. The male flowers are heavy in pollen so were added to flour to be made into a variety of baked items such as biscuits, pancakes, muffins, and even cookies. Such a versatile plant.
For the curious, here is an image where I changed the focus away from the cattails to reveal who was in behind all the while I was taking these photos.
Do you have a favourite plant that has an interesting history or background?
Diane is a lifestyle photographer serving Grande Prairie & Northern Alberta. Visit Diane Schuller Photography.