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      Text and photographs are © by Ellen Spector Platt & Ellen Zachos, all rights reserved.


      Showing posts with label Japanese knotweed. Show all posts
      Showing posts with label Japanese knotweed. Show all posts

      Thursday, April 14, 2011

      Hurry up!


      Spring is late this year. I realize that sentence isn't technically correct because the first day of spring was still the first day of spring, just like always. But apparently the plants and temperatures in NYC haven't been looking at the calendar.

      I'd like to appear all patient and serene and say, "Dude, it is what it is," (Of course it is what it is, what the h#&% else could it be!?) but this is not my way. As a compulsive planner, planter, and forager, I need to know what's coming up when!

      Every year for the last several, Leda and I have made our annual Japanese knotweed harvest in Central Park this same week. We turn that knotweed into wine, soup, jam, pie, compote, or stir fry. It's a plentiful wild edible, so invasive, in fact, that we assume any park ranger we encounter will have the good sense to thank us rather than write us a ticket.


      This year Gary joined us and we headed into the park to find slim pickins indeed. We wandered for a while, deciding the plants were about a week behind normal. Yes, we could have picked, but it would have taken much longer to harvest the necessary amount. And this was clandestine activity, better accomplished swiftly and under cover. So instead, we postponed, as urban hunter-gatherers can afford to do.

      We sat on a sunny log in the middle of The Ramble and shared a liter of knotweed wine (it seemed appropriate) from a seltzer bottle, discussing the vagaries of Mother Nature's calendar. Gary observed that odd years seem to have later springs than even years; I'll have to go back and check my journals.

      4.11.11

      4.14.10

      One of the great joys of foraging is picking (and eating) what's immediately available at any given moment. It's no great hardship to adjust your schedule, especially if you can still feed yourself from a well stocked pantry. But when you're trying to schedule photo shoots for a foraging book, that's a little different.

      I'll chalk it up to experience and head back into the woods next week, always ready to give Mother Nature another chance. Patience, Grasshopper.

      Monday, April 27, 2009

      Knotweed Crisp: follow-up foraging


      Went foraging with my sisters and their sons over the weekend. True, it wasn't in the five boros, but Georgia, at Local Ecology, directed me to a tasty dessert recipe after reading my last post here. She asked me to post a follow-up, and in gratitude for sharing the recipe, I do so now. Hope the rest of you forgive me for this rural post, but even a New Yorker has to get out of Dodge sometime. And the dessert tastes just as good with city knotweed, I promise.


      Start by enlisting your young nephews to help pick knotweed, even if they insist you're crazy. Clean and chop 4 cups of knotweed stems. Simmer over medium heat to create a tender compote. You won't need to add any water; the stems contain quite a bit of liquid. Add 1/2 cup sugar and move compote to buttered casserole dish.


      Assemble crisp topping from 1/4 cup flour, 1/4 cup sugar, 1/4 cup quick cooking oatmeal, 1 tsp. cinammon, and 1/3 cup butter. Combine to form a rough, crumbly topping, and sprinkle on top of compote. Bake at 350 for half an hour.


      Serve with vanilla ice cream. It's delicious, no matter what the nephews say.


      Thanks, Georgia!

      April, 28, 2009
      P.S. I've just been asked to submit this recipe to the House of Annie: Grow Your Own Roundup. It's a recipe roundup of blog posts written during the month of April that feature ingredients grown in your own garden or foraged from your area. There are some tasty-sounding dishes there...I'm going to try the nettle pasta and ramps quiche!

      Saturday, April 18, 2009

      Let the Foraging Begin!

      Yesterday was my first official foraging expedition of the season. That's not to say I haven't picked a garlic mustard leaf here and there, but yesterday was my first big haul: Japanese knotweed.

      Also known as Polygonum cuspidatum or Fallopia japonica, some people think knotweed is bamboo because of its invasive growth habit and jointed stems. It grows best in moist soils, but knotweed can survive in a WIDE variety of growing conditions. Years ago it was touted for erosion control and as a wind break. Oops! Now it's well on its way to taking over the planet.

      Japanese knotweed muscles its way up through the earth in spring. It’s a thick spear of growth, mottled with red, like asparagus on steroids with a sunburn. Before it starts to branch it’s very tasty; after, the stems are so tough that you have to peel them to eat them. That’s too much work for me, so I harvest early. Knotweed grows fast; within a few days it’s gone from tender to tough, so when you see the first spears poke up, don’t dawdle.

      Which brings me to a sticky wicket. You're going to read a lot about foraging in my posts because it's one of my favorite things to do. Trouble is, foraging in NYC can be tricky because it isn't exactly legal. NYC Park Rangers can write tickets for removing plant material from city parks; the maximum fine is $1000. I sincerely doubt any self respecting park ranger would do that for knotweed (ranked HIGH on the Audubon Society's list of most invasive plants) but should you run into a ranger who is behind on his ticket quota...well, be forewarned.

      That's why I harvest with a friend. Not only is it more fun, but it helps to have a look-out, right Leda? In the more remote parts of our city parks this won't be necessary. But in busier spots, remember that not everyone understands or appreciates wild edibles. Also remember: no ranger has the right to look in your back pack without probable cause.

      Knotweed is an easy crop to harvest; you can gather 5 lbs in under 10 minutes. It can be used in place of rhubarb in pies, sauces, jams, and it also makes a delicious soup and one of my favorite wild wines. People compare it to asparagus, but I think that's because of the visual; it has a very distinct, tart taste.


      When I get my harvest home the first thing I do is soak and rinse. For some reason, there are always a few ants among the knotweed. Above, on the left are the harvested stems. On the right are the prepared stems, with their leaves removed. I reserve 3 lbs for wine and divide the rest into 1 lb bundles. Some goes for soup, some for pies, some for stirfries.

      If you've been thinking about trying wild edibles, knotweed is a great plant to start with. There are no poisonous look-alikes, and it's so plentiful you don't have to feel guilty about harvesting it to satisfy your personal appetite. Go ahead and take the first step. But do it now, while the knotweed is tender and the getting is good!

      Potage de Polygonum
      Coarsely chop one pound knotweed stalks, one large clove of garlic, and half an onion. In a large pot, combine these three ingredients and add four cups of chicken stock. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for about ten minutes, till everything is tender. Puree the mixture in a blender or food processor, then add 1/2 teaspoon dry dill or caraway, and salt and pepper to taste. Return the soup to the pot and reheat. It should be a little thinner than pea soup; if it’s too thick, add a little water and stir. Serve hot or chilled, with a swirl of sour cream or yogurt.

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