I’ve been using seaweeds in and as food for long enough now. I’ve got into the the swing of which seaweeds to match with what recipe and amounts to use. Dulse (Palmaria palmata) with potatoes is traditional, in bread feels natural and, I feel, has […]
Tag: wild food
I love to eat weeds. Many weeds are edible, abundant and available as food if we just knew, or remembered, how to use and cook them. Invasive plants are also great to eat. I always think; why curse something when you could be eating it and benefiting from its abundance? In Spring, many weeds are at their best for nutritious food, including Japanese Knotweed.
Here I describe why Japanese Knotweed is good to eat, when not to eat it and share some recipes and images (courtesy of Jake Ryan of Wise Knotweed Solutions).
Japanese Knotweed (Fallopia japonica) is both beautiful, edible and scary stuff that has a bad reputation. It was first brought to Europe in the mid 19th century by a botanist. It has been shared between botanical gardens and garden lovers for decades before the problems related to it were detected. Japanese Knotweed grows at an incredible rate and is capable of significantly damaging properties as it can squeeze through masonry and concrete. It has been known to devalue properties, growing up to 20 cm a day with roots up to 3 metres deep. Japanese Knotweed is classed as “controlled waste” and the law requires it must be disposed of at a registered landfill site. There have been cases where the environment agency have prosecuted people who failed to dispose of the plant correctly. So don’t add left-overs to your compost, put it in general waste, or cook it all, then dispose of it.
Turning a problem into a dessert
Depending on how big the weed has grown, it may be possible to add this invasive plant to a tasty dessert. Knotweed has been described as tasting like a lemony rhubarb and can be used to compliment a number of dishes. Japanese Knotweed is an excellent source of Vitamin A and Vitamin C and has also been known to prevent and treat cognitive disorders. When edible, the plant can be extremely complimentary in a number of dishes such as muffins, crumbles and more.
When not to eat Japanese Knotweed
As an invasive weed that can cause significant damage to properties, it is often sprayed with herbicides. Before considering cooking with knotweed, it is important to guarantee that the plant has not been treated with chemicals, and to be absolute certain of this. Don’t let this put you off cooking the plant if it is chemical-free though. So long as the plant is safe to eat and disposed of correctly, it can make a great addition to a number of meals and desserts.
It is also important to remember the tasty invasive weed can only be eaten at certain times of the year. The perfect time to eat Japanese Japanese Knotweed is mid April to May when the first shoots in spring appear, are up to 20 cm in height and tender enough to eat. After that it can become stringy and may need peeling, or just look around for younger shoots. It is important not to eat the weed at other times of the year as the adult plant may cause mouth blisters. Jake Ryan of Wise Knotweed Solutions got in touch with lots of the information (including all these photos) you’ve just read above and recipes below, as an alternative to chemical treatment.
Japanese Knotweed Fool
- 300 ml double cream
- 100 ml greek yoghurt
- 450 g chopped Japanese Knotweed (leaves removed)
- Apple juice
- 5 tbsp unrefined caster sugar
- Mint leaves to garnish (optional)
Whip the cream until it forms peaks, stir in the yoghurt and put aside. In a medium saucepan place the Knotweed and sugar in enough apple juice to cover it and cook until tender, strain and blend until smooth. Fold in the Japanese Knotweed, pour into glasses or small bowls and refrigerate for 60 minutes. Add mint leaves to garnish.
Japanese Knotweed Muffins
- 2 eggs
- 200 ml milk
- 100 g butter, melted
- 300 g plain flour
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 300 g thinly chopped Japanese Knotweed (leaves removed)
- 100 g unrefined golden caster sugar
- 2 tbsp brown sugar
Heat the oven to 180°C and line a muffin tin with 12 paper cases. Beat together the eggs, milk and melted butter. Blend the flour, baking powder and cinnamon and pour the egg mixture into the the flour. Stir until well combined. Mix in the caster sugar and thinly sliced knotweed shoots. Beat the mixture well before dividing between the paper cases. Sprinkle with the brown sugar and bake for 25-30 minutes or until golden.
Japanese Knotweed Crumble
- 10 Japanese Knotweed stems (leaves removed)
- 8 tbsp unrefined caster sugar
- 1 tsp ground ginger powder
- 4 tbsp water
- 110 g butter
- 180 g flour
- 110 g brown sugar
Preheat oven to 180°C degrees and slice the Japanese Knotweed into 7 ½ cm pieces. Place the knotweed in a 20 cm by 20 cm ovenproof baking dish and sprinkle with the water, castor sugar and ground ginger. Bake for 10 minutes until tender and mix with ginger powder. To create the crumble topping, fold the butter into the flour and sugar and rub together until in resembles bread crumbs. Sprinkle the crumble over the knotweed and bake for 35 minutes. Serve hot with cream or custard, or have cold for breakfast!
Five years ago I wrote a blog about my Nettle and Honey Cake – it went down a treat. Named as; ‘probably the best cake I’ve ever had’ by one enthusiastic forager, I was super pleased the result. Every so often I like to repeat […]
I’ve been teaching foraging for a while now (over 10 years), and I’ve just come across some old film footage of me introducing stinging nettles (Urtica dioica). Oooh, we were all younger then, weren’t we!
Nettles remains one of my favourite wild greens, especially in spring, and as I write this (in April), I’m enjoying nettles most days, in soup, cake, pakoras, tea or doughnuts – yes doughnuts, more on that later!
For ideas of how else to use nettles, do have a look at my Stinging Nettle blog, in particular you want to read this one; A Dozen Ways to Eat Nettles, or come along on a wild food foraging course where I share all this and more.
As you can imagine, I’ve learnt a fair amount over the years, and love to share what I know. There is plenty to say and learn about the humble nettle, from recipe ideas to health benefits, to worldwide uses.
Stinging Nettles (Urtica dioica) are one of my favourite spring greens, and this was a recipe I shared with Graham Pullen of St Ives Screen Printing at Tom’s Yard. Graham is keen on making art affordable and accessible, and has incorporated the recipe into one […]
Gorse Flower Fudge Oh my god, I had such hopes with this recipe, I really thought I’d clinched it first time (which happens occasionally, though is definitely not a given). Heating it slowly, the smell of the gorse flowers was divine and the flavour of […]
I warn you, this might be a blog with questions.
I did wonder what to make the title, it could have been; what’s yellow, subtle with a crisp outer and soft centre? Though it sounded too much like a chocolate advert. Here’s the answer, a recipe, and a few other questions.
Gorse Flower and Coconut Macaroons
I first made these macaroons a few years ago for a journalist’s break in Lamorna Cove, I’d trialled them a few times and loved the play on coconut with the association of gorse flowers – you know, that lovely coconut aroma when you pass a gorse bush on a sunny spring day. Revisiting them more recently I decided to tweak the recipe and replace the golden syrup in favour of using my own, wild, homemade gorse syrup. The result was even better and blending fresh flowers into the mix added wonderfully to the colour too.
These Gorse Flower and Coconut Macaroons are light and moist with a slightly crispy outer, coloured and scented with gorse flowers. Well to be honest, the colour is bright and the scent subtle with just a sniff of moorland gorse flowers, though friends decided the recipe was too good to exclude.
Which asks the question; what’s important? Using wild food for the nutrition, the flavour or the fun and the experiment of it all? I’ll let you answer that for yourself, though for me, we enjoyed the macaroons, a lot. And maybe, just maybe knowing they were handmade, and incorporated something wild and fresh increased that pleasure and their goodness. After all, my understanding is that relaxing pleasures can also increase the body’s ability to absorb nutrients well – making it a win-win situation.
Back to the recipe.
Coconut macaroons are so much easier to make than the French macarons, which I’ve never tried to make as I’d heard too many stories and rumours about the failure to success ratio. You can’t go wrong with these, just gather some gorse flowers at any time of year, a few extra ingredients and set to. Oh, and they’re gluten-free too.
Gorse Flower and Coconut Macaroons
250 ml gorse flower syrup
50 g unrefined sugar
A little coconut oil (for greasing)
4 egg whites
¼ tsp cream of tartar
½ tsp baking powder
25 g fresh gorse flowers
30 g ground almonds
250 g desiccated coconut
Place the syrup in a small pan with the sugar, bring to the boil and simmer for 40 minutes, or until the liquid has reduced to 180ml and thickened a little, it will thicken more as it cools. Pour into a jug or food processor and blend in the fresh flowers and leave to cool. Grease a baking tray and pre-heat the oven at 150°C. In a spotlessly clean bowl, whisk the egg whites with the cream of tartar until they begin to stiffen then add the baking powder.
In a second bowl combine the ground almonds and coconut, and then pour in the flower syrup. Fold in the egg whites until the mixture is even and using one tablespoon per macaroon, spoon onto a greased baking tray. The macaroons should be in slightly loose rounds. Bake for 30 minutes or until golden and crispy around the edges and remove from the tray while still warm. Keeps well in an air-tight container.