View Full Version : Plants to use for a "liner" when cooking with coals

08-15-2011, 12:06 PM
I am planning on making a rock oven this weekend and trying some cooking. I learned about this method earlier this summer at a primitive skills camp. We made an oval shape ring out of limestone rocks, sides and the bottom. We then started a fire within the pit, we kept the fire going until we had a good supply of coals. The coals were then spread and a layer of green cattails were placed onto the coals. Our food was added; potatoes, ham, and carrots on top of the green cattails. Once the food was in we placed a second layer of cattails was added on top the food. The whole thing was covered with a piece of metal and then was aloud to cook while keeping an external fire going up wind of the whole thing.

My question is, what other plants found in KS could I used for this instead of cattails? There is not enough in my area to really use.

If this has been covered please just send me a link.


08-15-2011, 12:09 PM
I'm not familiar with plants in your area, but corn husks should do well.

08-15-2011, 12:50 PM
I like Crashes Idea.

I haven't cooked this way but like the idea. My thought is that this time of year there are a lot of maturing wild edibles that are now stringy and basically not palatable because of the texture of the larger leaves. I'm thinking about plantain, and curly dock and wild grape come to mind. Curly dock is a bit bitter and will transfer some of the flavor to what you are cooking, keep that in mind.

If you have a wild edibles field guide You can consult that to find larger leaved edibles that are too mature for consumption. Remember some, like Polk become toxic when they reach a maturity so that field guide is a good double check.

Just a thought, I haven't tried it.

08-15-2011, 01:57 PM
Crash - I like the corn husks idea. They are starting to become a little dry, do you think soaking them in water would help them not catch fire?

gryffynklm - I am familiar with curly dock but not so much with plantain. I did a quick search and all I turned up for KS was PALE INDIAN PLANTAIN. I will have to stick with plants I am familiar with. I do own 2 different edible plant books so I'll have to look through them when I get home.


08-15-2011, 02:01 PM

Here's the oven we made. I guess we had a few small fires around the pit. It's hard to see in the picture but everything but the metal was natural.


Dinner served!!

08-15-2011, 02:37 PM
I'm not sure why the pit was lined with limestone. I've cooked many a pig part this way and all we ever did was dig a hole and burn wood. That generally takes an hour or longer to burn enough. Of course, our pit was generally 4X8 or so. We wrapped the pig parts with foil and tossed them in the coals. Cover with roof tin and drink beer all night. I'm waaaaay too old for that now but there really isn't any reason to use the stone. The dirt will bake as you burn your wood and hold the heat just fine.

I third the corn husks if you aren't going to use something like foil or a dutch oven. If you use foil just toss it in. Mud works like foil for potatoes. I've never tried mud on carrots but no reason it shouldn't work. I would soak the corn husks especially if they are turning brown. They are still pretty green here.

Sounds like a great time. The food is always excellent cooked this way.

08-15-2011, 02:45 PM
Rick - I think the misunderstanding was from me using the word "pit". We did not dig a hole, we simply stood rocks up on end to form the sides and placed rocks along the bottom to cover the ground. The rocks on the sides were about 3 layers thick to keep as much heat in as possible.

08-15-2011, 02:49 PM
Oh, got you. Okay. I read pit and the first pic looks like a hole is dug so it all said big hole to me. Well, there's another way to cook.:clown:

08-15-2011, 03:32 PM
If the leaves are dried and used in the manner that you described they may very well catch fire.

The way I have cooked this way (many times) is to actually dig a pit as Rick described. Line pit with rocks if available -get a good bed of coals - wrap the food (I've used banana, ti and grape leaves) - place food on coals - cover with damp burlap (for whole pigs we wrapped the pig, not covered it) - cover burlap with thin layer of dirt.

Another method for open pit was to wrap food in leaves and lay directly on coals. This method is probably closer to what you are wanting to do.

08-17-2011, 08:42 AM
I went out last night and did some checking on the local crop fields and found a corn patch that has some green leaves yet. I also found a very large low lining area that has what looks like cattails (from the road). The plant is about five foot tall but there are no heads on the plant. Is there another plant that looks like cattails? I'll be doing some internet research today but I thought I'd ask here also.

Thanks for the assistance so far.


Backwater Bill
08-19-2011, 03:48 PM
Great thread! Very cool guys. Makes me want to try this. I've got alot of cattail and corn here.

08-19-2011, 04:07 PM
We built the "oven" yesterday, we just used a bunch of limestone rocks. We have a ham, potatoes, onion, and carrots to cook tomorrow. I'll takes some pictures and let everyone know how it turns out.

08-19-2011, 08:06 PM
Cool. Looking forward to your report and samples.

08-21-2011, 10:59 AM
Well here it is.

This pic is of the limestone oven me and the kids made.

Started a fire in the pit with a bow drill:) I used mainly old hedge branches (not shown) because they burn along time.

Got the cattails ready.

Once we had a good bed of coal we laid the green cattails down. I think we had a good 3 inches on top of the coals. Then we put our food right onto the cattails. Corn on the cob, carrots, potatoes, onions, and ham.

Our ham was too large for the oven so we had to cut it down.

08-21-2011, 11:05 AM
We covered the oven to help regulate the air. It worked very well.

Our food

Dinner served!! We just used some of the leftover cattails as our serving plate.

Conclusion: I will be doing this again. Here are a few things to watch for if you try it.
1. Make the oven deeper than you think.
2. Put your food on different layers, I should have put the ham above the carrots and potatoes sense they take longer to cook
3. Have plenty of cattails. We didn't run out but we didn't anticipate using them around the oven either.

The food was great even though there were some burnt spots on some and some undercooked carrots. Oh well:)

08-21-2011, 01:51 PM
Great job and great info!!! Thanks for the picture tour. Looks like you had some good food, too. Had to give you some rep. That's getting out and doing it!

08-21-2011, 06:14 PM
Well done.

08-21-2011, 07:24 PM
Thanks! It was certainly a learning experience.

Backwater Bill
08-22-2011, 12:31 AM
I agree! Way to get out there and do it! You know I think I would have put the ham down first too instead of the carrots and potatoes. Thank you for sharing what you learned! And I am very surprised that the cattails held up! This is very good to know!