Years ago, when my husband and I first bought our home in Vermont, we had sporadic visits from a locally well-known pair of wild foragers, Nova Kim and Les Hook.
I think it’s fair to say that if you look up the word eccentric in the dictionary, you’ll find their pictures there.
I find eccentrics such fascinating people and this couple was no exception. At that point in time, Jay and I were newbies in the world of wild vegetation, and Nova and Les were delighted to have pupils. The first time they came here, they took us on a whirlwind tour of the flora of which we had become stewards.
There was wild ginger, yellow dogtooth violets, maidenhair fern, wild leeks, a couple of edible mushrooms, and Japanese knotweed.
In an almost throw-away remark, Nova told us that you could eat Japanese knotweed in the spring when the new shoots appeared. She called it “red asparagus.”
Over the years, I’ve nurtured an intense love/hate relationship with this plant. It is tall and graceful with plumes of delicate flowers in late summer and leaves that turn a rich yellow in the fall.
But it TAKES OVER EVERYTHING!!!!!! And it is nigh impossible to get rid of once it gets a foothold. Sometimes when feeling stressed, I take out my cutting knife and just go to town where it grows the thickest. But even after hours of sweaty cutting, I doubt it even knows I was there.
We were reminded of Nova’s remark the other day when walking in our woods, and finally decided to give knotweed a try. Uncertain how to cook it, I did a web search and came up with recipes that basically use cooked knotweed as a substitute for rhubarb in such things as strawberry-rhubarb (knotweed) pie. After looking in lots of webby corners, I found only sweet recipes, nothing savory, so I tossed the “red asparagus” idea out the window.
My research did turn up a couple of interesting facts. Knotweed is a key ingredient in medicines used to combat Lyme disease, something we are far more at risk of with the horrific rise of ticks in our woods.
Also, knotweed (in tea or the cooked plant) contains resveratrol, an ingredient known to be helpful to folks with heart disease. It’s also beloved by pollinators and considering the plight of our beloved honeybees, I consider that a point on the board for the good guys.
I also found a recipe for Knotweed Bread which I tweaked to suit our tastes, and it turned out pretty yummy.
Thought I would share.
Cut knotweed shoots when they are no more than 8 inches tall ONLY from areas that you know are NOT sprayed with herbicides. (Remember: Herbicides are nerve toxins. Do not ingest or inhale.)
Place 2 cups of knotweed cut into 1-inch pieces in a pan with 1/4 cup water, 1/2 teaspoon lemon juice, 1/4 cup sugar. Boil for 20 minutes until the knotweed is soft. (It falls apart like rhubarb.) This should yield 1 cup of knotweed sauce that has the consistency of thick pudding. It’s the color of guacamole.
1 cup flour (we use 1/4 cup buckwheat and 3/4 unbleached flour)
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon lemon extract
1/4 cup poppy seeds (optional)
Combine all ingredients just until the flour is mixed in. Bake for 32 minutes at 350 degrees in a greased deep dish pie pan or 9-inch square pan. Let it cool for 20 minutes then slice and eat.
Note: Knotweed puree can be made ahead and frozen for later use.