|Japanese knotweed at the ideal size for recipes|
We have conflicting feelings about one of the most abundant invasive plants in the Northeast, Japanese knotweed (Fallopia japonica, syn Polygonum cuspidatum). Yes, it is edible when it first comes up in the spring, and purportedly it has all kinds of medicinal properties, but is its potential edibility blinding some people to the fact it is also terribly invasive? I cringe all the time when I see people wish knotweed grew in their area! We have witnessed many native habitats taken over by a mono-stand of impenetrable knotweed forests, all to the detriment of diversity and a healthy ecosystem. Invasive plants like Japanese knotweed are successful because they seed prolifically, grow faster and earlier than native plants thereby cutting off sunlight for the smaller, slower-growing plants, and invasives tend to alter the soil making it undesirable for the native plant populations. While we would never advocate for the CT DEEP's suggestions of poisoning and spraying populations of invasive plants, we also feel we shouldn't gloss over the destructive nature of Japanese knotweed for romanticized versions of wild edible plants.
The history of the introduction of Japanese knotweed to North America plus some identifying information can be found in the Wild Edible Notebook, a monthly e-publication put out by Wild Food Girl for a nominal subscription fee. We were very happy to contribute to the April 2015 edition.
Over the years, we have come up with several recipes to eat the spring shoots of knotweed, trying not to present them as an ideal solution to the invasive plant problem, but rather as an alternative to spraying or ignoring your local knotweed sources. Eat the Invasives! But also remember to curb their spread by harvesting responsibly and properly disposing of any plant material that may take the opportunity to root and spread further.
We have started collecting some of the dried, smaller hollow stems of knotweed to use as biodegradable straws. They are not completely impervious to getting wet over hours of being immersed, but are useful when sipping drinks around the house, and kids get a real kick out of wild-crafting with natural items they can find and manipulate on their own. Gillian has even crafted a blow-dart gun with the hollow tubes, using the larger lower stalks for the "gun" by cutting off the joints at both ends, and making the "dart" from smaller diameter stalks that are have the closed joints at both ends to provide air resistance when blown out of the "gun" tube. Involving your kids in the hunt for wild foods can be fun for them, even if they are just fooling around while you do all the dirty work of harvesting. Sword fights with dried knotweed stalks are always fun, and the hollow tubes can be cut down to use as small bowls and vessels while building fairy houses.
|Lots of potential straws here, as well as building material for kids and their imaginations|
Eat the knotweed, play with the knotweed, but don't spread the knotweed.