On a former property, colonies of Japanese knotweed made themselves a home on a riverbank. By late summer— if left unchecked— they grew into a jungle that could only be penetrated with a machete.
Where pokeweed is a bully, knotweed is a Superbully. On steroids. If you've ever battled this plant, then surely you're nodding in agreement. I feel your pain.
On my current property, I've been graced with both of these scourges and they often grow side by side. Their shoots look similar when they emerge in the spring, but beneath the soil there is no mistaking pokeweed's long pale taproots for knotweed's sprawling network of russet roots. And, unlike pokeweed, knotweed is not a native plant— most invasive species aren't. It's likely that Japanese knotweed (Fallopia japonica) was imported from Europe for its dramatic plumes of flowers and robust growth.
knotweed shoots ✢ sheep's milk yogurt ✢ lamb bacon lardons
hot bacon dressing ✢ young spruce
As a food source, the significant difference between the two is that while pokeweed should be consumed with caution, knotweed is perfectly safe to eat. Though, in its raw form it's very sour (it belongs to the same family as rhubarb), a trait that indicates the presence of oxalic acid, and should be consumed in moderation by those prone to rheumatism, arthritis, and kidney stones.
Remarkably, knotweed is a concentrated source of reservatol, a natural phenol with anti-aging properties. How clever and appropriate of Nature to devise an indestructible weed whose tenacity is despised by humans and endow it with the potential to extend our lives!
The thick, hollow stems, divided by joints, give it the appearance of bamboo, though they're not related. Mature stalks become too woody to consume, but lengths that are cut between their knees make excellent straws.