Last night we had some snacks. Except I called them zakuski, because the Russian sounds better with smoked fish, pickles, and clear, hard liquor. And because I had just written about them for Edible magazine. And because there is still snow in heaps on the ground.
With the pickled field garlic buds (lower right, and very good!) I also opened a jar of the long Japanese knotweed pickles I made last April. Their brine included a little allspice, and the flavour worked well. They were still very crunchy, which is why they make excellent pickles. They lose their fresh green colour in the pickling (and in any cooking), but I'm used to that, now.
Above, a sliced version left (with chile), and the tubes, right.
Here they are, just emerging, in April. They are one of the first plants to show signs of life in the brown woods.
Above, a good example of which shoot is good to harvest: the fat one. The skinny one will be fibrous.
The width needs to be sturdy in relation to height.
I found good patches of Japanese knotweed - Polygonum cuspidatum - all over New York last year. I look for stands where the previous year's tall brown canes are still upright sticks. If they are missing the chances are good they were sprayed with glyphosates in the summer.
99.9% of the time knotweed is viewed only as a noxious invasive plant, which it is, in the US and Europe. But it's high time it was also recognized as an excellent vegetable. Viewing it as food would turn the expensive-to-control weed into an income booster for landowners and collectors, would spare the environment - that means the water we drink - the effects of mass glyphosate (Round-Up) use, and would also help to control the plant by creative mechanical means: harvesting the shoots repeatedly until the rhizome's energy source is depleted.
When they are very tender, I use the whole stem. Older stems I peel, and I discard the joints between each hollow section, as they can become tough. Raw, they are at their most sour. In heat they are far more mellow.
No books I've read mention eating the tips of the stems, once they are quite tall (4 feet). Last year I started using the tips where the leaves were still furled. Sauteed, they are a crunchy, tart vegetable with more texture than the young stems, that dissolve in heat. Good as a sside, dish, or in an omelette.
I think we'll still find knotweed in Inwood Hill Park on the walk I have scheduled for April 25th. So some along on that wild foods walk to see the beast in its habitat.
Have you eaten Japanese knotweed? Would you?