Every weekend that we’re both free, Ian and I like to go for a long, scenic nature walk. I call them hikes — because for me, they are — but Ian’s idea of a hike involves a mountain trail, and usually his dad. We also have been wanting to find the time to try foraging, and since spring is in full swing, there’s no time like the present to combine these two interests into one. That is how we found ourselves returning home from one such hike with a bounty of Japanese knotweed (Fallopia japonica) in my pack.
Whether you know it or not, you’ve probably seen Japanese knotweed. It’s a highly invasive, non-native plant that grows in thick clusters of tall, hollow stalks. It strongly resemble bamboo and is next to impossible to get rid of, but if you catch the stalks early in the season, you can snap them off and prepare them in a variety of tasty ways. Steamed, their flavor is similar to the lovechild of asparagus and fiddleheads, and sauteed they maintain some of their almost green bean-like flavor and crunch, with a hint of tangy bitterness.
You can also prepare it like rhubarb, in jams and fools. I made a strawberry knotweed pie that even my late father (an avowed rhubarb fan) would have loved. My mom always had to make him at least one rhubarb pie each year to satisfy his taste for it; it’s one of those traditions that makes me think of summer. Those summer traditions are even more important now that Ian and I are having a child of our own.
Strawberry Knotweed Pie
- 2 pie crusts (storebought, or your favorite recipe
- 3 cups Japanese knotweed, peeled and chopped
- 2 cups strawberries, hulled and sliced (canned or frozen are totally acceptable)
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 4 tablespoons butter, chopped
- 3 tablespoons corn or tapioca starch
Preheat oven to 350°F. Place one crust in a deep pie pan and cut the other into strips for lattice. Toss together knotweed with strawberries, sugar, starch and ginger. Pour into pie pan over crust, dot with butter, and top with lattice. Bake 45 minutes to an hour, or until filling is bubbling and crust is browned. Best served warm, with a scoop of your favorite vanilla ice cream.