It is easy to see why landscapers made the mistake of introducing Japanese Knotweed to North America. Before it became closely associated with feelings of despair, a brake of the 10 feet tall bamboo-like canes made a stunning visual effect. In July they bear delicate sprays of tiny white flowers that exude a sweet jasmine-like scent.
Knotweed also forms dense and spreading colonies that choke out every other plant. It can spread from underground running rhizomes and come back from the tiniest root fragments. As if that weren’t enough, taproots can wedge as deep as 3 m, taking refuge in shallow Halifax bedrock. Clearly when it arrives it is there to stay. But all is not lost, knotweed is also a source of food and medicine. It is even being investigated as a potential source for biomass. (www.phlorum.com/blog/)
Harvest the asparagus-like shoots now, at the last frost, between May 1 and Victoria Day. They must be cooked, and taste (to me) like a cross between rhubarb and artichoke hearts. Knotweed can be eaten as a sweet or savoury vegetable and I like to steam or boil them just as they are. They can also be mixed with sugar or other fruit and used as rhubarb crumble filling.
Here’s a recipe for Knotweed Jelly from the Three Foragers.
It’s fiddlehead time too! For a detailed article on fiddleheads, check out Ray Plourde’s article in Saltscapes magazine.