A thrifty wildlife expert has found a novel way of dealing with the curse of aggressive Japanese Knotweed – by EATING it.
Forager Andy Hamilton, 36, says the delicacy tastes like rhubarb and helps lower cholesterol.
He is producing a recipe book for cooking the garden menace – including knotweed crumble and knotweed fool.
Britain currently spends £150 million-a-year controlling the runaway weed, which can grow 20cm in a day.
But Andy – who has appeared on the BBC’s Autumnwatch programme producing foraged food – says we could save a fortune by eating it instead.
He said today: ”I am always looking out for anything that grows in the wild which can be eaten.
”I started eating the weed quite a while ago – I was a bit wary at first after hearing about people sticking it too close to their mouth and getting blisters.
”But it tasted really nice and succulent and is a lot like rhubarb. You can cook it up to make all sorts.
”I eat it and put it in deserts like crumbles and I have also made a Japanese Knotweed ale and tea.
”Not only does it taste nice but it is good for you as well as it lowers your cholesterol. It is also full of vitamin A and C.”
Japanese knotweed is a perennial plant that causes stress for householders by springing up through the floorboards and spreading extremely quickly.
It is also problem to the construction industry as it exposes weaknesses in buildings, foundations, concrete and tarmac.
The lush green-leafed plant, known in Japan as the itadori, can grow up to 6ft tall and, where it spreads, prevents all other native vegetation from growing.
Since being introduced to Britain from Asia in 1825, experts estimate it costs around £150million to keep the fast-growing species under control.
The organiser of London’s 2012 Olympics also spent an estimated £70million clearing the weed after it was found all over the Stratford site for the Games in East London.
All the more reason, according to Andy, to develop more dishes full of Japanese knotweed cuisine.
Only the plant’s hollow stems are edible as the leaves contain similar toxins to rhubarb leaves.
The eco blogger and foraging expert, who lives with his partner Emma in Bristol, has published some of his recipes online and has already dished up a knotweed crumble among other deserts.
He is now encouraging people to cook the plant’s 25cm bamboo-like shoots when they are young, between March and May each year, to provide a free solution to the problem.
He said: ”I would love to work with a chef to develop more recipes. The rhubarb on my allotment is often left now because I enjoy the knotweed so much.
”It has been estimated that getting rid of Japanese knotweed in the UK will cost £13.5 billion.
”Yet most of us foragers are shouting at the top of voices: ‘Why don’t you eat it’.
”It might seem odd – but knotweed is a great food.
”Although it is important to burn any leftover scraps of knotweed – as as the plant has been known to reproduce even if small pieces are dropped.
”And it is actually a crime to knowingly spread knotweed under the Countryside Act of 1981.”
Mr Hamilton provides tips and recipes for knotwood tea – known in Japan as itadori tea – and knotweed crumble on his website, selfsufficientish.com.
The secrets to his knotweed ale and wine will be released in his book, Booze For Free, later this year, costing #6.49.
– Knotweed crumble
* 30 lengths of knotweed
* 1 banana
* 4 tablespoons orange juice
* 1 tsp powdered ginger
* 120g Butter
* 120g soft brown sugar
* 180g flour
Cut knotweed into 5cm chunks place in an oven proof dish and pour over orange juice and add up mashed banana into the gaps.
Mix the other ingredients with your fingers and sprinkle over the top.
Place in pre-heated oven at 180Â°c and cook for 20 minutes or until the crumble has turned golden.
– Knotweed fool
2 tablespoon of sugar or half a litre of apple juice
* A big handful of knot weed (12 shoots)
* 2 Bananas
* 1 cup of double cream
Cook the knotweed for a few minutes in sugared water (or apple juice) until tender.
Strain and blend until it is mashed up.
Throw in the bananas and blend them too. In the meantime beat the cream until it is stiff.
Fold in the resulting goo.
Refrigerate for about an hour and serve with a foolish countenance.