Friday, April 6, 2012
Photo Collage - Japanese Knotweed
Japanese knotweed is very prevalent and highly invasive in New England. Its point of entry into the United States was through Boston as an ornamental, and it has spread into 39 of 50 states. In the early spring the shoots begin to pop up from the bases of last season's growth, as it spreads mainly through rhizomes in the ground. The hollow stalks grow quickly, unfurling leaves at each "joint" beneath a papery sheath until they reach up to 12" tall. The stalk is green, and often speckled red, looking similar to rhubarb. The leaves have an odd, flat base on the stem end and are simple, oval and pointed. Large stands of Japanese knotweed are easy to spot by the forest of tall, dead stalls left behind from last season.
We gather the stalks when they are 3"-10" tall, as they become tough and stringy as they get too much taller. At the smaller sizes, the stalks can be peeled to use raw, or cooked many ways into recipes. Most of the recipes we have developed are sweet, as the tart flavor of knotweed pairs well with sugar. Jelly, dessert bars, muffins, wine, cold soup and tapioca are some ideas for a sweet dish, and we recently tried it raw and savory in a wild food-filled summer roll. Gillian will chew on a raw stalk while we are out, and likes to sip the water that accumulates in the lowest hollow joint of the larger plants.