Monday, May 9, 2016

Japanese Knotweed Jam


So, as I started poking around in my new garden, planting a few lettuces, herbs, and such, I noticed this rather distinctive plant coming up around the edges of the concrete retaining walls.

Because it was growing out of cracks, rather than in an obviously planted spot, because of its somehow kinda scary-looking red speckled stem, and because it grew SO FAST, I thought... this looks dangerous. So I posted this picture on Facebook, and sure enough my friend Meghan confirmed, it is the dreaded Japanese Knotweed!

Whoa. I'd heard of it, and its reputation is legend. I'd just never seen it in person before. Incredibly invasive, almost impossible to get rid of, and listed as a noxious weed in at least eight states, including Washington. I guess I had thought it was also known as kudzu, but it's actually not the same thing. Definitely a serious problem, but guess what? It's also edible! It tastes just like rhubarb.

So I made jam and ate it with yogurt! Delicious. Next time I might even try it with some ginger, like the fantastic ginger-rhubarb jam my aunt Sandy sent me a few years ago.

6 cups chopped Japanese Knotweed stems
3 cups sugar (or more, to taste)

Choose stems no more than about 1 inch in diameter, and chop them into pieces about 1 inch long. Once they get this big, they can be really woody, so check them as you go by tasting some of the bigger pieces. If you can't chew them, throw them away until you get up to a more tender part of the stem. You don't want those tough fibers in your jam.

Cook knotweed and sugar in a saucepan on medium heat until it thickens. Stir more frequently as it gets thicker, so it doesn't burn. It's going to turn out a dark green color, like many of the less-red varieties of rhubarb do. If that doesn't appeal, you can always add red food coloring to pretty it up. Chill and serve on toast, with yogurt, or use it in this fantastic Rhubarb Trifle!
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