Most people (and all gardeners) consider Japanese knotweed to be an aggressive, invasive weed, that crowds out many less vigorous plants. You might wonder what’s wrong with that, survival of the fittest and all, but the truth is that monocultures in nature can be unfortunate things, especially when wildlife depends on diversity in the landscape for food and shelter.
So, in an effort to save the world, one stem at a time, I give you my recipe for Japanese knotweed pickles.
What You’ll Need to Make Japanese Knotweed Pickles
- 1 cup water
- 1 cup apple cider vinegar
- 1 Tablespoon kosher salt
- 2 Tablespoons sugar
- 9 dried chiles
- 3 peeled cloves of garlic
- 6 pieces of wild ginger stolon (about 1 inch long each)
- 1.5 cups Japanese knotweed, sliced into rounds
What You’ll Do to Make Japanese Knotweed Pickles
This is a refrigerator pickle. No hot water bath is required or recommended because knotweed turns soft (some might even say mushy) when cooked. Which is fine when you’re using it in stir fries or as a rhubarb substitute, but not when you want the crispy crunch of a pickle. Refrigerator pickles should generally be consumed within 3 – 4 weeks and must be stored in the refrigerator. Hence the name.
In a saucepan, combine the water, vinegar, kosher salt, and sugar. Whisk the ingredients together over medium heat to dissolve the solids, then let the brine simmer for 2 – 3 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and let the liquid cool.
As the brine cools, take three sterilized half pint canning jars, and place three dried chiles in each. I used pequin chiles, but you can choose your chile depending on your tolerance for spiciness. Add one garlic clove and two pieces of wild ginger stolon to each jar. Set the jars aside.
Wash your knotweed stems and remove all the foliage. Take a bite out of each raw stem to be sure they are tender and not fibrous. If they are the slightest bit stringy, peel your stems before slicing them. Slice the stems into rounds. I usually make some that are 1/2 inch and some that are 1 inch long, just for variety.
Fill each jar with sliced knotweed rounds, leaving one inch of head space.
Pour the brine onto the knotweed, tightly screw on the lids, and voila! When the jars are thoroughly cool, refrigerate them and wait at least 24 hours to taste your pickles. 48 hours is even better.
Knotweed has a lemony flavor that makes these pickles light and refreshing. They’re a great addition to an antipasta plate where their clean, bright taste contrasts with cheese and smoked meats. They also make an excellent cocktail garnish, especially for my weedy margarita: the Get Off My Lawn.