Cottonwood Catkin Tempura- Amanda Godin

Table of Contents

By Amanda Godin:

It is easy to spend hours amongst cottonwood trees as they are so inviting and usually grow in abundance. They are one of the most sacred trees to native American folklore. Given its majestic size they are honored as the “standing one” who connects the earth with the sky. Every year a sacred cottonwood is chosen for an annual sun dance ceremony and placed in the center of a large circle as a time of coming together. For many, they are a conduit for spiritual connection. 

There are male and female trees that produce catkins 2 to 6 inches long, which look similar to cones. Catkins are a tree’s reproductive organ. They appear in late winter and early spring before leaves unfold in March to May. Male flowers are a reddish color that droop down in a catkin shape. Female flowers produce a catkin with a light green capsule. When the wind-pollinated flowers of the female catkin mature the capsule splits open releasing small silky hairs with seeds attached. The cotton ball appearance of the group of seeds is responsible for the name cottonwood. Catkins carry a lot of nutritional value, and are particularly high in vitamin C. They make a wonderful addition to campfire stews. They can also be eaten raw in survival situations. The catkins have a somewhat bitter flavor depending on your pallet. I love experimenting with wild edible foods. Being that we live in rural Alaska we don’t have access to a wide variety of produce and fresh foods unless we grow or hunt our own. I’ve decided to experiment cooking catkins tempura style. This is an easy recipe that takes the edge off of the bitter flavor of the catkins.


  • 10 catkins
  • 5 tablespoons flour
  • 1 egg
  • Ice cold water
  • Pinch of salt


  • Frying pan
  • Spatula
  • Spoon
  • Plate

Directions: Combine your ingredients making an egg wash. Put in fridge for 10-15 minutes, stir and adjust consistency by adding more water.  Look for a consistency that lightly coats catkin. Dip entire catkin in egg wash then fry on both sides until golden and crispy. Add a pinch of salt or your favorite seasoning to taste and enjoy. 

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