Cemre Kara

Eating the Invasive

A beautiful plant with a horrible reputation

Many believe that the Japanese knotweed is a specie that can only cause harm. This, however, is a very one-sided view on this
exotic invader. In cities and gardens it might be a pain to get rid of, but is it also harmful in the kitchen? Japanese knotweed turns out to be of great nutritional value. It is an excellent source of Vitamin A and Vitamin C. In fact, there are countless recipes you can find on the Internet if you like to taste for yourself.


A plate of peeled Japanese Knotweed shoots - These thick juicy heads of the young knotweed shoots are great to cook with. You can even eat them raw. Slightly astringent, freshly acidic like Sorrell. Pick them at the end of March, beginning of April in The Netherlands This plant is originally from Asia and is considered an exotic invader in the west. As such it is seen as a plague that is dangerous and damaging to local ecology and infrastructure. Reynoutria japonica or Fallopia japonica or Polygonum cuspidatum are the scientific names of… Willem Velthoven

Let's eat the invasive

One of the recipes that you can find online is made by a forager chef from Minnesota, Alan BergoOn his website, next to his interesting recipes and culinary journal, he writes about differences between individual species, shows what makes each one special, and provides some information on them for everyone to understand. 

He has many more recipes made from Japanese Knotweed. The one that got my attention was his “Japanese Rhubarb” recipe which is Japanese Knotweed Sorbet.

When to Eat the Invasive?

The ideal time to eat the Knotweed is when they are in small sizes so spring would be the best time to forage them. The preferable scenario would be not to forage by yourself the knotweed since it requires a particular way of cutting the plant for preventing further spread.

Furthermore unfortunately many park services and city workers regularly spray knotweed colonies to get rid of them. So I would not recommend to collect and eat any Knotweed that you see in the parks. And If the plants look at all wilted or sickly, stay away.

 If you are interested where Japanese Knotweed grows in the Netherlands specifically in Amsterdam, the city of Amsterdam created a map just for Knotweed, locating each one of them in the city among very interesting other maps.

Test kitchen

Japanese Knotweed Sorbet Recipe 

Knotweed has been described as tasting like a sour rhubarb”, the shoot’s of the Knotweed can be eaten raw or cooked. Once you have your Knotweed you can start cleaning them by cutting the base part and the leaves, later you can wash in cold water and it is ready to be eaten.

When you try raw, you can immediately taste the earthy flavor on your tongue, one interesting thing about the Knotweed is that when you start cooking it, it gets super slimy super quick. 

The recipe that I followed was pureed the knotweed and give extra sweetness into it by mixing with green apples, so it was not as sour anymore as it was raw. My version of the recipe became a savory sorbet which I decided not to eat as a dessert but instead, I served it as a side dish to my main course.

This version was with grilled topinambur also know as Jerusalem artichoke served with black garlic mayonnaise and Japanese Knotweed sorbet as toppings

In addition to white wine vinegar coated carrots and fried radish leaves.

Very delicious plant-based recipe.

Of course, there can be many more other interesting different recipes to use the Knotweed's in our kitchen, this is just one from many others.