Knotweed, the Japanese plant which is spreading rapidly in Ireland, damaging buildings and costing hundreds of thousands to eradicate, could have a new future – as a dessert.
The latest culinary advice was put before Kerry County Council by Fianna Fáil's Cllr John Joe Culloty, who said knotweed shoots tasted "like rhubarb", while it also made for an appetising jam.
Kerry Co Council has put aside a €100,000 fund this year in its attempts to destroy knotweed, which has held up the construction of a new community hospital in Kenmare and now covers stretches of the banks of the River Laune near Killorglin.
Several clumps of the invasive herbaceous perennial have also been found along the N22 near Killarney. It must be destroyed by repeated sprayings rather than cutting, since loose tiny fragments cause it to spread.
Mr Culloty's cookery tip was given a cool reception by fellow councillors, though one of Ireland's top chefs, Damien Grey, has teamed the plant with duck and redcurrants at his Heron and Grey restaurant in Blackrock, Co Dublin.
"You can cook it, but I used it raw in this dish. We also tried cooking it in four different ways and had different results on each test, but found that pan frying for two minutes retained most flavour, which would be good for tarts and jams," said Mr Grey, who gets his supplies from Ballyhoura Mountain Mushrooms in north Cork.
However, food lovers must handle knotweed with extreme care in the kitchen, or they could end up with more than a tangy note in their recipes:
“One leaf or trimming can take root and that’s the end of your garden,” he said.
Mark Cribben, of Ballyhoura Mountain Mushrooms, said knotweed was pickled and tinned in Asia and used as a flavouring for sweets.