Along the Grapevine

Japanese Knotweed Strata

14 Comments

DSC02041 Foraging for Japanese knotweed (polygonum cuspidatum) is not only worthwhile in terms of finding a delicious and nutritious food source. You will also be doing the environment a big favour, as it is arguably the most invasive of all invasives. Initially we tackled a large grove of it growing in our front garden with the lawnmower. We almost succeeded when it occurred to me this might be an interesting wild food, at which point I salvaged a few sprouts, transplanted them to an appropriate area and have just begun to harvest them. DSC02040 If you are not familiar with this plant, here are a few characteristics which should help you identify it. Where to find it: Along roadsides, riverbanks, fields where the earth has been disturbed. Originally from South East Asia it now grows in North America, Europe, Australia and Tasmania. How to identify it: It is usually grown in clumps and resembles bamboo with its hollow stems. The stems are green, spotted with red and divided by joints, or knots. The young shoots are deep red. The leaves are smooth-edged, hairless and broad oval in shape with a pointed tip and hanging from a long stem. Edible parts: The young leaves and stems before they attain a height of about a foot are commonly used. The rhizomes are usually reserved for medicinal purposes. DSC02052 As I contemplated my modest haul, I was wondering how best to prepare them. I must have had a flash from the past, because suddenly the word ‘strata’ popped into my head, a word I have not heard in decades, but am familiar with the dish. That seemed a good place to start, as it involves few ingredients and no strong flavour which might overpower it. Strata is often made to use up old bread, typically with vegetables and sausage (or ham/bacon) and cheese and cooked in a custard. I used a crusty sourdough bread, but any crusty good quality bread will do. I only used cream cheese because a stronger cheese would just be too much flavour, but a hard cheese could be grated on the top if you like. I omitted meat, and pumped up the vegetable content with lots of caramelized onion. Having tasted some raw bits, I thought it tasted like a gentle rhubarb, so used sumac and mustard to pair with the fruity flavour. DSC02049

Japanese Knotweed Strata

Ingredients 2 cups Spanish onions, sliced thin oil for frying 2 cups chopped knowtweed stems 2 cups leaves, tightly packed 4 cups bread cubes 1 cup cream cheese 4 eggs 3/4 cup cream (18%) 1/2 cup milk 1 tsp salt 1/2 tsp ground pepper 1 Tbsp sumac powder 1 tsp mustard powder Method Fry the onions in oil gently until they begin to caramelize, about 20 minutes. Add the knotweed stems and continue to fry about five minutes longer, until the stems are cooked. Add the leaves, cover the pot and cook gently until the leaves are wilted. Set aside to cool. Meanwhile, place the bread cubes in a casserole in a 325 degree oven until they are slightly toasted. Mix together the cheese, eggs, cream, milk, seasoning and spices until they are well blended. To assemble, grease a casserole dish lightly and place the bread and vegetable mixture in it, stirring gently to combine. Pour the cheese mixture evenly on top, making sure that all the bread is soaked. Place in a 350 degree oven for about 40 minutes until it is brown and crisp on top and cooked through.
DSC02053 This dish lends itself well to all sorts of variations, but I was very pleased with it just as it was. Perhaps if we all made use of this remarkable vegetable, it would not be such a pest.

Japanese Knotweed Strata on Punk Domestics

Author: Hilda

I am a backyard forager who likes to share recipes using the wild edibles of our area.

14 thoughts on “Japanese Knotweed Strata

  1. You are incredible, Hilda. You remind me of Venetia Stanley-Smith (google her) an English aristocrat who married a Japanese man and lives in rural Kyoto. She published book(s) on herbs and and also poetry, and she has a weekly TV program. I think you can compile your knowledge in a book or two, too!

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    • Thanks so much Fae for your kind words. Support from a talented writer and cook like you mean a lot to me. I did look up Venetia and will now follow her on FB. I’m sure I can learn a lot from her.

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  2. Hi Hilda:
    Never thought of using the leaves as food. How inventive of you.

    Meanwhile, it has overtaken a beautiful garden bed and I need to get rid of it. How did you manage to do so?

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  3. Never heard of this before and you introduce so many new stuffs – simple superb and creative you are….

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  4. Hey Hilda! Well, I have absolutely no idea how Japanese Knotweed would taste! Not even an iota! What I do know is that if you are giving us this recipe, it must be very delicious ! I am moving further out into the country in a few months, so I am going to buy a book on foraging and see if I can find this and many more of your delicacies. By the way, I’m with Fae! You need to write a book! šŸ˜€

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  5. We have 10 recipes for knotweed on our blog, it is very common and invasive here in Connecticut. Depending on preparation, it can be sweet or savory. If collected young enough, it can be eaten raw in small amounts, and stews up nicely with sugar or fruit juices. Our favorite uses for large amounts is a pretty pink jelly and an ugly green fruit leather, both that taste like nothing else in the world. http://the3foragers.blogspot.com/2015/03/japanese-knotweed-recipe-roundup.html

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  6. Checkout the article in Harpers-may I think-about japanese knotweed-wild stuff.td

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    • Thanks for bringing this article to my attention. I found it but could only read the first part. However, I have read similar articles about the expense and problem associated with the weed in the UK, but I think maybe it is because they are not going about getting rid of it the right way. Maybe the article offers some solutions in the latter part not available to non-subscribers. I’ll see if I can find a hard copy of it.

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