After I read the Gazette article about the problem with Japanese knotweed at the Northampton Community Gardens, I was surprised the garden committee which researched this plant didn’t discover any of its redeeming qualities.
So … is there anything good about this plant? My answer is a resounding YES! I’ve visited friends who have gardens there, and as far as I know, the knotweed hasn’t migrated across the road into anyone’s plots. I don’t deny that it’s VERY invasive and can be a nuisance, but I’d like to propose ways we could be creative — not destructive — in dealing with it.
Japanese knotweed 1) has edible young shoots. Use them as a rhubarb substitute;they’re available a month before cultivated rhubarb is ready 2) roots contain the antioxidant resveratrol, which is good for the heart. If you look at the ingredients of the supplement which is sold in stores and online, the main ingredient is often Polygonum cuspidatum, Japanese knotweed’s Latin name. The roots are important in helping treat Lyme disease as described in Stephen Harrod Buhner’s book “Healing Lyme” 3) flowers, which bloom in late August, are a treat for honeybees and other beneficial insects. Local beekeepers may unknowingly have some knotweed nectar in their honey harvest.
What can be done to manage this plant besides chemical applications? 1) Have a dig and dine — The DIG part: Invite people from the community to dig up the plants. This will NOT be easy as the roots are massive. Herbalists would probably love to get the roots to use in their medicines. If done in early spring, then you can have the DINE part: I could present a talk at the gardens about how to use the shoots in recipes 2) Cut its stalks down periodically (this will have to be done several times as it keeps coming back.) Perhaps there can be a potluck when that occurs — make it a celebration. Although Japanese knotweed can be a problem, if you look at it from a different perspective, it can also be of help to us.
Blanche Derby, wildcrafter for over 50 years