The great cattail has been dubbed the supermarket of wild foods. This is because there is always some part of it which can provide substantial nutrition, among other uses.
Early in the Spring, before the end of April usually, the base of the shoot of the cattail is a wonderful crunchy vegetable that can be added to a number of dishes; from stir fry to omelets, to salad. After the flower stalk starts to appear in mid to late May however, these shoots turn woody, as all the nutrients and energy has been transferred to the young flowers. These young, green flower stalks however, make an excellent vegetable in turn! Just boil them like an ear of corn!
In June, once the flowers mature, they too become inedible, but are filled with a glorious, golden pollen. This can be collected by the bagful and used for a nutrient rich flour.
After the cattail has finished its yearly cycle, it begins storing as much energy and nutrients as possible in its rhizomes, or roots. By the Fall, these roots are another useful vegetable.
If you have water on your property, or are wanting to attract waterfowl, cattails are a wonderful choice. They can provide shelter for wildlife, improve the integrity of stream or pond banks and help to purify waters. That said, they are capable of taking over many areas, so they might need continual thinning, which might actually be rather delicious when you think about it!