Japanese knotweed (polygonum cuspidatum) is an extremely invasive non-indigenous plant and gardeners who know it are generally distressed to find it on their patch. However, today I spotted this deliberately positioned specimen, growing happily in the Hortus Botanicus, Amsterdam. It’s even got an identification plate!
I once saw Japanese knotweed growing into a house which was being auctioned, yes into it, through the walls and under the floor! Needless to say, I didn’t make an offer to buy the place.
Seeing the plant reminded me that it is edible and apparently rather tasty too. According to the late Maida Silverman in her book, A City Herbal, it can be harvested and eaten in the same way as bamboo shoots, at this time of year. New York forager Steve Brill seems to like it, likening it’s taste to rhubarb. He also mentions it’s suitability as a companion plant, due to pesticide qualities. Personally, I don’t find the plant calls me to try it and I worry that by harvesting young shoots, the plant would further proliferate, in an attempt to survive. I hope I’m wrong because there is plenty of this plant growing in Amsterdam and I do love rhubarb crumble! What a great foraging plant this could be.
I’d love to hear from anyone who has tasted this plant. It is said to be quite tender, when cooked and to act as a gentle laxative. I’m also keen to know if harvesting, without pulling up the roots, would increase the plant’s chances of survival.
I wrote to Steve Brill about the harvesting issue. Here’s his reply…
On Apr 18, 2012 1:16 AM, “Steve Brill” wrote:
> Hi Lynn,
> Thanks for writing. As far as I can tell, it spreads wherever it can whether or not it’s harvested.
> Happy Foraging!
So knotweed crumble, here I come!
I dream of using wool from my own sheep, dyed with herbs, to make my own clothes. Last year I bought some Woad, Safflower, Indigo and Weld seeds and last week I finally got around to sewing them indoors. Hopefully I’ll be able to harvest at least a little from each plant some time soon and will then have a go at dyeing some shop bought yarn.
De Hortus Botanicus, Amsterdam boasts some beautiful, plant dyed wool, produced by acclaimed artist Claudy Jongstra. I saw them today, hanging on the walls of the Orangerie cafe, looking like perfect marble walls. The newly refurbished shop at De Hortus also sells some of her work and it is a real pleasure to see.
Do have a look at Claudy’s website if you are interested in making plant dyed wool into items of fascination and beauty. It has certainly inspired me to encourage those seedlings to grow!
Next weekend (This weekend 10th & 11th Sept) the Hortus Botanicus in Amsterdam are organising what promises to be a very interesting weekend for Urban Herbologists. The event is called “Van aardpeer tot zonnewortel” (literally, from earthpears to suncarrots) and is all about forgotten or old varieties of vegetables.
A few weeks ago I was lucky enough to be shown some of the interesting specimens which have been lovingly nurtured for this event by Hortus gardener Michael Sawyer and volunteer Elodie den Otter. They should provide real inspiration for those who enjoy eating different vegetables and those who enjoy growing them. There is also plenty for those of you who are specifically interested in herbs.
The programme of events taking place next weekend is available online at the Hortus Botanicus website (it is in Dutch). There will be films about seed saving, tasty eating, Growing in Detroit and Rebecca’s Wild Farm and also tours of the garden in English by one of the gardeners. There will also be more interesting things going on and I am delighted that I shall now be able to attend at least in part. Later this week, I’ll set up a meetup.com meeting for any of you who would like to catch up with me there. I have just scheduled a meetup.com meetup for Sunday, 10th September at 1.30pm. Meeting at the lily pond inside of the Hortus Botanicus. I hope to see you there!