The Dreaded Knotweed

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When my wife and I first moved to the farmhouse in Chesterville, winter was just setting in and the snow was beginning to fly. We didn't have a lot of time to look around the house to see what might grow here, while we were unpacking endless boxes.

So, spring came along and my wife and I began raking up the side lawn, where we discovered a huge patch of knotweed all around an old chicken coop and trying to grow into the lawn.

You may not recognize the name, knotweed, and you may know it as Japanese Bamboo, but you've definitely seen it growing. Broad, dark green leaves on tall, bamboo-type stalks. And almost impossible to eradicate from a lawn or garden.

Originally imported to England from Asia in the early 1800's, it was brought to the U.S. in the Victorian era as an exotic garden plant. Unfortunately, outside of Japan there are no natural checks on its growth. Today, knotweed is considered one of the top 100 most harmful weeds in the world.

We had this weed on my parents' farm in the Adirondacks, and it grew through cracks in blacktop. As a kid, the dried stalks were great to play at 'swords' with my brother. As an adult, it's just an annoying plant.

What to do? Well, research these days is much easier than ever before and we quickly found two things on the internet: 1. knotweed is almost impossible to eliminate once it takes over a patch of ground; 2. it is edible.

So, as the thick, asparagus-like spears began to appear, I formed my plan of attack to exterminate it. Grabbing my bucket, I headed out to the knotweed plot and harvested every spear under six inches tall and as thick as my thumb. Everything else I cut down. As I carried my first harvest on the farm back to the kitchen, I had my doubts this stuff could possibly be edible. My wife had other ideas and with a couple of recipes from the internet in hand, she quickly whipped up a nice knotweed soup, with chicken stock and spices. Imagine an asparagus soup with lemon, but no lemon need be added. It's a unique and pleasant taste.

The rest of the spring, once or twice a week, you would find me early in the morning harvesting buckets of knotweed spears. And just as often, I'd slash everything else down. That is part of my long-term strategy to exterminate it from around the farmhouse. Starve it out over years, and cover it over to prevent it growing back. Phase 2 is under way, with all the leaves raked up from the maple tree near the house being piled high on the knotweed patch, to mat down over the winter into a nearly impenetrable cover.

Now, I have a dilemma, however. I want to wipe it out where it is growing... my wife wants a regular supply of knotweed soup. So, I've adjusted my original plan of attack and have left a section for future harvesting. We'll always have containers of processed knotweed in the freezer, ready to be made into a hearty soup in the middle of winter. And I'll keep having to cut it down all summer long to prevent it from spreading. I guess I might be winning the occasional battle, but the knotweed is winning the war.

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This page contains a single entry by JeffAdminist published on January 21, 2009 12:47 AM.

Milking the Cats was the previous entry in this blog.

Apples from the Library Window is the next entry in this blog.

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