The pollen from cattails or bulrushes (typha angustifolia) is only available for a short period. In previous years I have completely missed it or collected too little for it to be of any use. Even this season I have collected only a small amount, but enough to get an idea of how best to get and use it. Cattails grow in swampy areas, difficult to access because of the wet and irregular ground. They are ready when the male part of the flower, a tall spike growing above the sausage like female flower, is a golden yellow colour. If they are brown, you are too late. To collect the pollen, hold a plastic bag below the flower, keeping the opening as small as possible so the pollen doesn’t blow away. Bend the plant over into the bag and give the flower a good shake. You will get up to one tablespoon of pollen from each flower. Since this job requires two hands, I was unable to get a picture of the process, but it is pretty easy to figure out. Just make sure there are no holes in your bag. To use the pollen, pass it through a fine sieve to remove any of the bushy bits and bugs. I had to repeat this process a few times to get rid of all the extraneous matter. You will be left with a fine yellow powder which can be used to replace some of the flour in baking bread, biscuits or pancakes, or you can sprinkle it on hot cereal or yogurt. Like bee pollen which can be bought in health stores for a healthy price, it is full of nutrients but much cheaper. If you are lucky and collect enough, it can replace up to 1/3 the quantity of flour. Pancakes seem to be a favourite for this ingredient, so I decided to bake scones, and I’m so glad I did. The colour and delicate fruity flavour go so well with these tea-time treats I am now determined to have another go and collect more. But time is of the essence with cattails, so I hasten to pass on this recipe to any readers willing and able to try it for themselves.
Cattail Pollen Scones with Currants
2-3 Tbsp pollen plus enough flour to measure 2 cups
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup dried currants
1/2 cup butter (at room temperature)
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 Tbsp sugar
Pre-heat the oven to 500 degrees F. Mix the dry ingredients thoroughly. Add the butter and blend well, then stir in the currants. Beat the egg and buttermilk together and add the flour mixture, leaving about 2 Tbsp to be brushed on top of the scones. When the liquid is all absorbed, turn the dough onto a floured surface and knead for about five minutes. Roll out and cut into circles. Place on a lined baking sheet and brush with the reserved milk and egg mixture. Sprinkle the sugar on top. I used sugar coloured with dried forsythia flowers. Reduce the oven temperature to 425 F and bake the scones for 12 minutes until they are golden brown. Any which are not going to be eaten right away, cool and freeze. To serve, reheat in a warm oven (300 F) for about 15 minutes.