Monday, April 25, 2011

Japanese Knotweed Recipe - Knotweed Wine

This recipe takes a bit more patience, as there is the year-long wait to taste the wine, and a bit more in the way of equipment. An early taste was slightly viscous and very vegetal, but the one year wait really improved the characteristics of the wine, and it was dry, a tad tart, overall a good effort.

Japanese knotweed is a wonderful wild edible, but a horrible invasive species. It came originally from Asia, and has spread to the US from the UK as an ornamental plant for it's pretty white flower sprays in summer and fall. It spreads mainly through rhizomes underground, but the seeds have "wings" to better ride the winds. Japanese knotweed looks like a red-speckled asparagus in it's early stages in the spring, but the leaves quickly unfurl and the smooth, hollow stems grow very tall. There are several very distinct identifiers, including the jointed stem which looks like bamboo, a membranous sheath at each of the stem joints, and leaves that are broad with an oddly straight base and a pointy tip. Japanese knotweed will grow just about anywhere, next to water, on the side of the road and railroad tracks, anywhere there is ample sunlight. It will also grow in just about any type of soil, so it easily excludes native vegetation. The thick layer of decomposing dry stems will out-mulch all competitors.

Japanese Knotweed Wine      Makes about 1 gallon

4 pounds Japanese knotweed, leaves removes, chopped
3 pounds sugar
1 tsp. yeast nutrient
juice of one orange
one envelope champagne yeast
1 gallon water

1. Place the chopped knotweed stalks in a straining bag, tie the top off into a knot, and place that in a sterilized 5 gallon bucket.

2. In a large pot, bring the water, sugar, yeast nutrient and orange juice to a boil and pour it all over the knotweed in the straining bag. Let it cool until about 70°F, and sprinkle the champagne yeast over the top. Stir the liquid and cover the bucket.

3.Keep this concoction in the bucket for a week, then strain it into a gallon demi-jon and top it with an airlock. Allow it to sit until the fermentation stops, then decant the wine into smaller bottles for aging.

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