I remember the first time I sampled Japanese Knotweed.
What a distinct disappointment.
More so because of all the hype and print about it being a tasty treat and being really easy to find and pick. I had myself all keyed up for a major thrill when and if I finally found and identified it.
When that day arrived one bright and sunny April day I cut off six shoots, approximately 6 to 10 inches long with the leaves just starting to open a bit, and took them home.
When I got home I cleaned the shoots of their young leaves and scrubbed off the surface of the shoots. I steamed the six shoots until soft. Actually, they got REAL soft pretty quick, which was a slight turn off, but I figured, 'that's okay'.
I put them on a plate, added some pads of butter and a dash of salt, and dug in. I was expecting an asparagus experience. NOT.
It tasted like buttered rhubarb. Not pleasant - even for someone like me that likes rhubarb. After two bites I pitched it.
Right after I threw the shoots away I steamed a few leaves the same way and although not as sour they still had the taste as if it was a plant not knowing whether it wanted to be a vegetable or a fruit. I pitched the leaves also.
The Spring went on by ending the season for picking and I forgot about Japanese Knotweed. But I figured, 'that's okay'.
A year or two later I re-read Euell Gibbons' book 'Stalking The Wild Asparagus' and arrived at the chapter about Japanese Knotweed.
I almost skipped it because of past experience with the tasting but luckily I did not.
With the reading of that chapter I actually keyed in to those statements he made about it being very much like rhubarb in taste and that he actually used it more as as a fruit than a vegetable, talking of pie and jelly.
When he mentioned 'jelly' I figured, 'that's okay'.
I made a couple of batches of jelly using different measures of sugar and pectin and settled on this one.
This is a small recipe therefore easy to get through. With it you can make small batches when you have a whim.
It will make from slightly more than 1 pint jar to 3 'half pint' jars.
A one pint jar of Japanese Knotweed jelly.
With this recipe you can make just a bit and decide if you like Japanese Knotweed Jelly enough to make a bigger batch.
Disclaimer - sort of:
If you have a clean source of Japanese Knotweed ( which can be a problem because people have been trying to eradicate this plant for a long time with many schemes, some including chemicals, and when that failed they dug up the ground and rhizomes and dumped all the remains in the country somewhere ) it can provide an early start to jelly making providing enough to hold you until the strawberries and other berries arrive.
When you do find Japanese Knotweed growing somewhere ask yourself:
Where did it come from?
Is this a suitable harvesting area?
Is it growing in a non-polluted area considering erosion / run-off?
I like Japanese Knotweed jelly but not as much as many other fruit jellies so this 1/2 recipe suits me to the tee.
This recipe is made with the idea that it can be 'doubled', which in jelly making is generally not a good idea, but here the recipe is made for that purpose.
About 20 to 25 shoots ( 12 inches or so ) of Japanese Knotweed. Since we are only going to be getting the juice from the shoots and not be eating them it's okay to have the shoots a bit long.
Remove the leaves from the shoots while picking. No need to bring that stuff home. You do NOT want to have knotweed growing on your property.
2 cups of sugar.
2 tablespoons of lemon juice.
2 1/2 tablespoons of powdered pectin
3. Kitchen Equipment
A couple of large bowls,
A couple of large non-reactive pots, preferably stainless or glass
Three half-pint canning jars with rings and lids,
Couple of wooden stirring spoons or spatulas,
A few teaspoons for doing the spoon 'jell' test,
A mash potato masher,
Muslin bag ( or a piece of sheet or small pillowcase ),
Cut up the shoots and place all the sliced pieces in a bowl of warm water. Reach in and mix the lot up a couple of times. Be rough. We are cleaning.
Dump the water and do it again a couple of times.
Slicing and washing the shoots.
Each time you wash / stir-up the sliced pieces more debris will rise from the depths. Just about all of the debris is the membrane material that surrounded the stem where a leaf was attached to the shoot so it's a good idea when cleaning the leaves off, while out in the field, to do your best to get rid of most of this membrane at that time.
About four washings with rough handling will usually be enough to get the vast majority of this litter out of the brew.
Washing the sliced shoots in fresh warm water.
Japanese Knotweed cooks up rather quickly. There is not a lot of juice in knotweed hence a large bunch of shoots is needed to start with.
Put the chunks in a pot and add about a 1/2 cup of water. You do not want to start with a lot of water because you will just have to 'cook down' the final juice output longer if you do.
Let it simmer a few minutes and keep checking it. When it gets real soft and mushy start mashing it real good with a potato masher.
It should look something like the picture below.