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

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

      Friday, January 2, 2009

      Knotweed Wine

      In case you haven't noticed, Other Ellen is very crafty. Give her a few foraged birch branches and voila! You've got art.

      I'm not quite as aesthetically oriented...any creative energy I have left over after a hard day's work is devoted to investigating, preparing, and eating interesting food. Fortunately, I live in NYC where there's no shortage of interesting food. And some of the most unusual raw ingredients are free for the picking.

      This time of year there isn't a lot to forage, but today I opened a bottle of homemade wine made from Japanese knotweed (Polygonum cuspidatum aka Fallopia japonica) harvested in Central Park last April. Let me warn you, what I'm describing is illegal; you're breaking the law by removing any vegetation from NYC parks. I don't understand why, since knotweed is rampantly invasive and the USDA's National Invasive Species Information Center ranks it as a highly noxious weed.

      Knotweed is a good beginner's wine for several reasons: It's ready to drink approximately 6 months after bottling (this is fast in wine-making time), it's tasty, and the raw materials are very plentiful. You'll find it growing in vacant lots all over the five boroughs, in addition to the aforementioned, off-limits parks!

      Choose unbranched spears, between eight and 16 inches tall. They may be as thick as your thumb or as slim as a pencil. You can snap them off at ground level, but a pair of pruners speeds the harvest. In 15 minutes you can easily pick the 3 pounds needed for a batch of wine.

      Knotweed Wine
      Roughly chop 3 lbs. of knotweed stems (remove the leaves first) and combine with 8 oz. chopped raisins in a 2 gallon, plastic fermentation bucket. Crush lightly, then cover with a syrup made from 3 quarts of water and 2.5 lbs. sugar. Add a tsp. orange zest, 1/4 tsp. tannin powder, and a crushed Campden tablet. Stir, cover, and leave for 24 hours. Next, add 1/2 cup orange juice, 10 drops pectic enzyme, 1 packet wine yeast, and 1 tsp. yeast nutrient. Leave the mixture covered for 10 days, stirring daily. Strain the liquid into a one-gallon glass jug. Rack off the sediment every few months. Bottle when clear, and taste after 6 months (from bottling the brew).

      If you'd like to learn more about wine-making, check out Making Wild Wines & Meads. It's a rewarding hobby (for obvious reasons) and even the smallest NYC apartment has room for a few gallon jugs.

      And finally, in a bow to the ever-artistic Other Ellen, I give you knotweed in a vase. This is as close as I get to arts & crafts.

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