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Japanese Knotweed is jointed and covered in deep red sheaths. They are crisp and juicy offering a refreshing yet sour taste, similar to that of rhubarb. Its tip boasts smooth edged, pointy leaves which are alternate and can grow four to six inches in length. In the summer months Japanese Knotweed will bloom white to pale green flowers. It is typically foraged in the spring when it is between six to eight inches tall. In the summer months, the mature plant becomes too tough and woody for foraging.
The tender young shoots of Japanese Knotweed are forageable in the spring.
Japanese Knotweed, also known as Itadori and Mexican bamboo, is an herbaceous perennial in the Polygonaceae family. Scientifically it is known as Polygonum cuspidatum, poly meaning “many” and gony translating in Greek to mean “knee”, a nod to the jointed segments that line the stem of the plant. Japanese Knotweed is classified as an invasive weed in many areas, especially in the United Kingdom where it is known to grow straight through foundations and into peoples’ homes. Its relative, Giant Knotweed, Polygonaceae sachalinense, is also edible but taller with larger, heart-shaped leaves. For foraging purposes, there are no poisonous look-alikes.
Japanese Knotweed is a great source of vitamin A. It also provides vitamin C, phosphorus, zinc, potassium and manganese. It is rich in resveratrol, which is the same substance in red wine that can lower cholesterol levels as well as reduce the risk of heart attack. In addition, eating a large amount of Japanese Knotweed can act as a gentle laxative.
Japanese Knotweed can be enjoyed in a variety of different cooked preparations and even fermented into wine. It can be steamed, baked, sautéed, grilled and added to stir-fries, soups and salads. The tart flavor of Japanese Knotweed balances out sweeter fruits in fruit compotes and pie fillings. It may also be cooked down to make marmalades, jams and chutneys. For an ideal texture be sure to peel off the tough outer rind prior to cooking. In the Kochi prefecture the stalks are sliced and packed in salt to make Shiozuke, and Japanese pickled side dish.
Japanese Knotweed is native to Japan, China and Korea. Today it can be found growing throughout North America and Europe. It was introduced to the United States in the late 1800s for erosion control and today is considered one of the most invasive plants in the country. In Japan, it grows in Hokkaido, Honshu, Shikoku and Kyushu. Japanese Knotweed prefers growing in moist, disturbed soil along roadsides, riverbanks and fields. Kibune shrine in Kyoto holds an annual festival known as Itadori Matsuri on the first of June every year. During the festival, people compete to see who can pick the most and the longest wild Japanese Knotweed.
Recipes that include Japanese Knotweed. One is easiest, three is harder.
|Kitchen Vignettes||Japanese Knotweed Quiche|
|3 Foragers||Knotweed Fruit Leather|
|Kitchen Princess||A Szechuan Pork Stir-fry with Japanese Knotweed|
|The Foraging Family||Strawberry and Japanese Knotweed Crisp|