Is Japanese knotweed driving you wild? Don’t curse it – cook it

Gardening experts suggest that we eat our way out of our problem with this invasive weed: here are five ways to enjoy it

Japanese knotweed, an incredibly invasive plant

Japanese knotweed, an incredibly invasive plant

 

The scourge of homes and gardens, Japanese knotweed is pernicious and incredibly invasive, so much so that it needs to be disposed of carefully either at a landfill site or by burning.

But at the Hay literary festival in Wales earlier this summer, the former Gardeners’ World presenter Alys Fowler, said that knotweed was delicious and that instead of destroying it, we should “eat it into submission” . Used by many Japanese chefs, the taste is bitter like rhubarb; its juicy, hollow, red and freckled stalks can be used in savoury and sweet dishes.

The best parts of the knotweed to use are the very young shoots, as older plants can be extremely fibrous and unpalatable. To pick it, make sure you look in wild areas, away from main roads, as it is often sprayed with strong herbicides. Here are some simple ideas for serving Japanese knotweed.

Pickle the stems and serve with smoked fish or salami

Make a simple pickle liquor with cider vinegar and unrefined granulated sugar, adding some chilli flakes, fennel seeds, orange zest and coriander seeds. Cut the stalks in 4cm pieces and lightly salt for half an hour. Bring the liquor to boil, then briefly leave to cool and pour over the stalks while still warm. Seal and leave for a few weeks or longer.

Strawberry and knotweed fool
Strawberry and knotweed fool

Make a strawberry and knotweed fool

Cook the knotweed stems tossed in half their weight of sugar, with the juice of two oranges in a covered dish in the oven as you would with rhubarb. When the stems are softened, break up a bit more, mix with finely chopped strawberries and fold into whipped cream.

Use as an accompaniment to roast pork

Make a sauce by cutting the knotweed into small pieces and cooking with some Bramley apple, allspice and sage. Cook with a splash of cider, apple juice or water until everything is very soft. Add some sugar to taste and then puree with a generous nut of butter.

Carrots coated in knotweed dressing.
Carrots coated in knotweed dressing.

Make an interesting carrot side dish

Blanche the stalks cut small in boiling salted water. Drain and refresh under cold water then puree with a little honey to take away the bitter end note, and mix in some chopped mint and parsley. Toss roasted carrots with this as a dressing.

Macerated knotweed in vodka for a fine digestif

Half-fill a one-litre Kilner jar with the knotweed and half its weight in unrefined caster sugar. Add five or six elderflower heads, the zest of both a lemon and an orange, plus a generous teaspoon of fennel seeds. Keep in a dark place but shake every few days to help the sugar dissolve, then strain after three months. – Guardian

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