Easily found in many areas, Japanese knotwood has a slightly tangy flavor that makes it useful in any recipe calling for rhubarb.
In the Spring, Japanese Knotwood comes into season. Also known as Fallopia japonica, it can be identified by simple leaves that alternate and appear to be a broad oval. This native species comes from Asia and was first introduced in the early 19th century. It was brought to North America to help with soil erosion, livestock forage, and to be an ornamental plant.
The stems of the knotwood are hollow, and has notches on it that make it appear like bamboo. The reddish-green hues of the leaves are similar to rhubarb. When it blossoms, the flowers are creamy to white color and will appear in late summer.
The Japanese knotwood is a large plant, that is actually in the buckwheat family. It’s all over in the early spring through fall, and in many places in the United States, it’s considered and invasive species. There are some countries that have laws against planting this species due to it’s ability to rapidly spread and take out other plants. It forms a dense thicket that can wipe out other native plants in the area, and is thought to harm biodiversity.
How to forage for Japanese Knotwood
For many wild foods, knowing how to forage for them ethically is paramount to their survival. When you find knotweed, it will be along river banks commonly, as it can grow better due to the movement of water. Knotwood can spread by seed, or the rhizomes (roots that grow below the ground) and can spread up to 30 feet from the parent plant.
Where does Japanese Knotweed typically grow?
Anywhere it wants, basically. It can thrive in almost any environment, from river banks, to contaminated soils. It prefers open sunny areas, but will still be found in shade along river banks. Removing the plant from the root entirely is important. However, once at home, you do not want to compost the root or seeds. It can survive, thrive and grow easily unless the compost heat is high enough to kill it. A piece of stem as little as 1 cm is all that is needed to grow a new plant and spread.
This wild edible can and will spread like wildfire if great care is not taken. You will also want to be sure not to walk through the area of where it is growing, as that could even cause it to spread.
Other invasive plants that are similar to Japanese Knotweed:
Giant Knotweed (Fallopia sachalinensis)
Bohemian Knotweed (Fallopia × bohemica)
Himalayan Knotweed (Persicaria wallichii)
Is Japanese knotwood safe to eat?
Yes, you can eat Japanese knotwood. It has a slightly sweet tang like rhubarb to it. Japanese knotwood uses ragne from being in jellies, jams, pies, and cobblers like rhubarb would be used. You can also make a japanese knotwood root tea or tincture from it.
There are some health benefits to it, as it’s considered high in resveratrol, a potent antioxidant. This is the same antioxidant that red wine has. The shoots be used raw or cooked. If eating raw, the young shoots are more desirable as the older shoots can be fibrous. Knotweed is good source of fiber.
Try these delicious Knotwood squares to enjoy your harvest!
for the crust:
2 cups flour
¼ cup sugar
1 cup cold butter
For the filling:
½ cup flour
2 cups sugar
1 cup whole milk (or heavy cream)
3 eggs, beaten
4 cups knotwood, peeled and chopped into ½ inch pieces
Put it all together
In a bowl, combine crust ingredients.
Blend with a fork until it resembles a course texture, the size of peas.
Press into a pie pan and bake at 350 for 10 minutes.
In a mixing bowl, add the flour, sugar and milk.
Beat together well.
Add eggs, one at at time, beating each addition well.
Stir in prepared knotwood.
Pour over crust and bake at 350 for 30 minutes, or until set.
Allow to fully cool.
Top with whipped cream or ice cream.
Have you tried to forage for Japanese Knotwood? What would you make with it? Photos generously provided by Pia of Busy Hands, Quiet Hearts.