Saturday, May 16, 2015

A New Favorite Vegtable --Japanese Knotweed ...A.K.A.: Bamboo

Polygonum cuspidatum or Japanese Knotweed, I have always heard it called Bamboo. We see it everywhere  and most people hate it because of its invasive ways, but I am so excited to learn it has a purpose and even health benefits. I didn't know much about this naughty plant until the last few years where we've been learning about harvesting wild edible plants. A few months ago my daughters and I went to a talk given by Naturalist Tom Seymour at the University of Maine on harvesting wild plants. It was very helpful. My daughter has some of his books already so it was nice to meet him and listen to his spring presentation. It encouraged us greatly to keep learning about all the bounty that is available for us to simply go out and pick. After his talk, I especially wanted to make a point to try knotweed this year. We haven't been able in the years before due to forgetting about it until it was too late to harvest it.  Now that we've tried it, I'm quite impressed with its versatility. When eaten raw it has its own taste but reminds me of a cross between fiddleheads and rhubarb. We steamed up the smallest shoots like asparagus adding a little butter to them, they tasted good, but not like asparagus. I might have over cooked it a little too much because it was more mushy than I would've liked.

We have only a small window to harvest it, as you have to get is when its just coming up up to about 2 feet tall. I've looked into it and it is possible to harvest a little later but you would have to only harvest the tender tops and peel it as it gets woody. So we will be doing as much as we can with the plant in the next few weeks, including freezing it for later use so we don't get too sick of Knotweed all at once.

We found a large patch, which was easy to do, if you keep your eyes out for it you will find it. Its important to find a patch that hasn't been sprayed. Its really fun to pick. You know the knotweed is perfect when you get a nice satisfying popping sound as the tops break off easily. It was really musical as the three of us popped them to put them into our bundles yesterday.

The first recipe we tried was from a blog post, I just started following The 3 Foragers.
They have a recipe for Knotweed muffins. Which you can find here:

It was my daughter's idea to triple the recipe. The only other thing we did differently with the recipe was reduce the amount of sugar added both times to 1/3 of a cup. As you see the color of the batter in the photos below, its a little frightening-- resembling day old guacamole. But take heart its very tasty--just don't show your picky eaters the batter. Once the muffins are baked they have small greenish flecks, but are mostly nice golden color.

We are so glad we triples the recipe, they were gone the next day.

I also made a big batch of the stewed knotweed from the muffin recipe and have divided the amount I need in the recipe it into freezer bags. My daughter can take it out when she wants to make these muffins again and it will be all ready for her.  She was all excited about the idea, it did seem to take a long time to do the first part of the recipe and wait for it to cool, it will be so much better to have it ready ahead of time. 

So we tried it cooked sweet, the next thing I wanted to try was savory. The next day I made up a knotweed and venison sausage crustless quiche. I don't have any photos to show for it because the family dug into too quickly for me to get a pretty picture.

What I love about crustless quiches are the ease and quickness I can throw them together and anything goes once you get the idea.

-I just butter my cast iron frying pan.
-Chopped approx. 4 cups of knotweed into the pan (basically fill the pan half way with whatever veggie you want).
-I had venison sausage cooked and in a freezer bag so I just broke it up a bit and added about 1/2 of a cup over the knotweed.
-sprinkled about 1 cup of cheddar cheese.
-one garlic clove grated
-beat 10 eggs and 1/2 cup milk
-pour into pan
-add salt and pepper

--bake in 350 degree oven about 45 min until the eggs are firmly set.

A quick and healthy meal

To learn more about knotweed, I found this video very helpful in explaining more about the plant and the benefits:

Tomorrow I am making Strawberry Knotweed pie. Since Japanese Knotweed is such a close relative to rhubarb they say any recipe with rhubarb can be substituted with the knotweed, and they say it's actually better than rhubarb. We'll see.

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