Eat This Now: Japanese Knotweed At Petruce Et Al

It’s not every night out that you come across an ingredient that you’ve never heard of before. But here’s an even rarer thing: when you go home and plug it into Wikipedia, only to discover that, according to the International Union For Conservation of Nature, it’s one of the 100 worst invasive species on earth.

Go ahead, Google “Japanese knotweed”. One of the top results offers “Eradication Strategies.”

Let me offer mine: Get over to Petruce et al, and gobble up slender stalks of it in one of the more unexpectedly delightful salads I’ve come across in a while.

Japanese knotweed grows along waterways, and according to chef Justin Petruce, it’s all over the Wissahickon. “Foragers are like, hey, please buy this stuff, because we need to get it out of the forest. It doesn’t belong here.”

It’s a fibrous, flowering plant in the same family as buckwheat, and our server described it as a vegetable that melds characteristics of bamboo, asparagus, and rhubarb. Any affinity with asparagus was lost on me. But its hollow stem structure definitely resembles bamboo, as does its hearty texture. And its tangy flavor is indeed akin to rhubarb—which belongs to the same plant family. (The weed also goes by “donkey rhubarb,” though true rhubarbs constitute a different genus.)

The Petruce brothers add another layer of flavor to this exotic combination: a pronounced smokiness from their wood grill. Served with some exquisite lettuces, lily bulbs, and a sumac vinaigrette, it crowns a lip-smacking salad that couldn’t be better suited to first, hot flush of spring.

Petruce et al [f8b8z]