I need to find some knotweed in Portland. I’m particularly fascinated with it right now and it tastes good. Most people don’t want to find knotweed. It’s a terrible invasive. Japanese knotweed is so tenacious it is listed as one of the world’s 100 worst invasive species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. Like its name suggests, it’s native to Japan and was introduced to the United States an ornamental plant. Today it is illegal to propagate, transport, or sell the live plant. But you are more than welcome to remove it and kill it dead. Although it is not rhubarb, it is also called donkey rhubarb or sally rhubarb. It tastes satisfyingly enough like rhubarb and once its fibrous exterior has been peeled away, the juicy innerstuff has similar culinary uses. The young shoots are best, but even the bamboo-like thick parts have soft plant matter that can be scooped out with a spoon.
Japanese knotweed was my favorite food that we harvested during John Kallas’s Native Shores Rendezvous. We added the tenderest parts to a salad and cooked the rest into a dessert using a modified recipe by Euell Gibbons for strawberry knotweed pie. I would like to try boiling the tangy plant down with some sugar into a syrup that I can add to soda water or cocktails. Here are recipes for Japanese knotweed bread and jelly. If we all enthusiastically pitched in to overharvest these tasty sour stalks, we might be able to eradicate this insidious invasive. Then we wouldn’t be able to eat knotweed anymore, but we can always return to rhubarb.
Sometimes I fantasize setting up a restaurant or food cart that focuses on eating invasive species. The greatest success would be to be forced out of business by a scarcity of ingredients.