A rehabilitation of sorts

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If you own a property in the UK or have anything to do with property you will know that this stuff is the worst thing you can find close by.

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Japanese knotweed is the Lucifer of weeds, the Capo Dei Capi of fibrous horrors. It’s roots can burrow through concrete and you only need a fraction of a centimetre of stalk for it to regrow. It has no natural predators, is not attacked by bugs and if a bank (or other lending predator) hears it’s close by, then kiss goodbye to any sort of mortgage.

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When I worked at the Olympics we took a lot of temporary property and agreed to hand it back clean and remediated – except we wouldn’t guarantee the removal of Japanese knotweed. Heavy metals, hydrocarbons and all other forms of pollutants, but knotweed was just too @&£)(;;:5))7) persistent.

Like most people, therefore, I saw no good in it whatsoever.

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And then I went foraging. The Vet loves finding new experiences, especially involving food, and came across a day foraging in the Kent countryside and coastline with a slightly bonkers chap called Fergus.

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We met at a farmers market by Canterbury West station at 9am on Sunday last and set off for a stretch of river that nestled behind a tired housing estate and a cash and carry on the outskirts of the city.

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Fergus gave us a talk on wild plants, on safety and all sorts and I was cramping in my buttocks by now so delighted to set off. We were collecting material for our lunch.

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Dock and dandelion, hogweed and cow parsley, bittercress and Violet. We learnt the difference between hemlock and other common plants which was a shrewd lesson, and we collected nettles in ways that aimed to avoid stings but weren’t universally successful.

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And we filled a large bag with knotweed. You break it off two notches down so it makes a pop. Like on this clip.

We didn’t throw away the leaves, of course – they were bagged to be burnt later.

Fergus assured us it was delicious.

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He gave us some made into candy which was but looking at the raw material…

Yep, we didn’t believe him either.

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Lunch was fabulous – at Fergus’ mum’s place – he trained as a chef too so he knew what was what – a dead nettle and dock risotto and a salad with both traditional leaves and foraged, plus a vegetable soup.

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And then it was off to the coast at Reculver

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a smidgen of nothing beyond a ruined church clinging to the cliff edge and and a caravan park. Except it’s more than that.

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It’s a foragers’ paradise with several types of seaweed to harvest as well as pine pollen and figs growing randomly, Berberis full of delicate orange flowers that will morph into delicious dark blue berries later in the year and all of which make gorgeous ice cream.

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It also happens to be where I spent every childhood holiday and several Easters up to the age of 12, living with my gran in nearby Herne Bay.

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The Archaeologist and I walked this coastline, hunting out sharks teeth from the cliff falls, chasing clouded yellow butterflies as, battered by summer winds they buffeted across the downs.

Still the same sand martens too.

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Not only did I experience every shade of deja vu but I got to eat a three course meal cooked on the beach.

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Fergus brought us some fish already marinaded in spices, but we cooked up a ratatouille of vegetables collected earlier to accompany it and, for afters, knotweed crumble.

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Believe me it was divine, and I defy anyone to tell knotweed and rhubarb apart.

And the seaweed? Well it’s best eaten like crisps (or chips for those across the pond) cooked thus…

It was the wrong time of year for fungi, his other speciality, but if you want to learn loads, realise there are so many ways to eat on these islands without cost then sign up for a Fergus forage. You’ll never spend a more fascinating and fulfilling day living on what you previously thought was inedible. Though maybe that was just me.

 

About TanGental

My name is Geoff Le Pard. Once I was a lawyer; now I am a writer. I've published three books - Dead Flies and Sherry Trifle, My Father and Other Liars and Salisbury Square. In addition I published an anthology of short stories, Life, in a Grain of Sand this summer. A fourth book will be out soon. This started life as a novel in a week on this blog and will follow later this year. I blog about all sorts at geofflepard.com and welcome all comments. These are my thoughts and no one else is to blame. If you want to nab anything I post, please acknowledge where it came from.
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31 Responses to A rehabilitation of sorts

  1. What an interesting post! I’m not being funny either. I’d heard of knotweed but never seen it. Bamboo’s bad enough.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Jenni Le Pard says:

    What a day!!

    Like

  3. Ritu says:

    That sounds amazing! !!
    By the way the WP gremlins were at work and I somehow unfollowed you… but it is remedied again!
    I was wondering where Geoffles had gone!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. noelleg44 says:

    Geoff, you are well on your way to being a survivalist! We gather wild onions from our grassy areas and mushroom hunt in Europe. It can be a little iffy gathering mushrooms in the US if you’re not really knowledgeable. OUR capo dei capi are bamboo and kudzu, although recently kudzu has been found to be good food for cattle. Happy eating.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. An incredible day. You are super brave or simply open to new food. 🙂 sounds a fascinating experience. Thanks for sharing. The photos and videos are wonderful.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Fascinating post Geoff. Knotweed sounds a lot like the kudzu in the deep south here (edible and Japanese), but I’ve never thought of a mortgage being denied because of any plant, no matter how invasive. Wow. Happy weekend!

    Liked by 1 person

    • TanGental says:

      I know, quite frightening. And it’s not a problem in Japan because of a local beetle. Rightly they are reluctant to introduce it here in case it prefers some indigenous species. I believe the boffins are working on a GM version to try and reduce the growing (ha bloody ha) problem.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. That looks like a great day. I’d never even heard of Japanese knotweed until I came here, and I certainly didn’t know you could eat it.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. merrildsmith says:

    Fascinating post! The meals looked great, too. 🙂

    Like

  9. Autism Mom says:

    The meals looked absolutely delicious! My son loves roasted seaweed, too.

    Will we start seeing amazing knotweed desserts from you now?

    Like

  10. gordon759 says:

    Think what would have happened if I had got hold of information like that when I was a boy. Would you and dad have survived the meals I would have prepared, and mum insisted you would have eaten (wisely avoiding them herself).

    Liked by 1 person

    • TanGental says:

      Nope, accidental hemlock salad! I told him how you identified forest mushrooms though and he was impressed, but mostly at dad who tried them confident you’d got it right!

      Like

  11. What a wonderful activity – and you are getting set up for surviving the er – em, next impending doomsday too 🙂 Sounds like that Japanese stuff will survive any holocaust along with the cockroaches – you might like to check with Fergus how to cook them……….

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Sacha Black says:

    For once I actually know of knot weed. There’s some in our area unfortunately. Not that it matters now they are knocking down our house. But you know…the foraging looks fun I love how many random experiences you have – all good book fodder I imagine 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  13. I’ve seen them cook and eat Knotweed on Countryfile, Geoff. There is lots of it down here in Wales. In fact, there was some in our now new garden, but it was disposed of properly and there’s a 25-year guarantee (with insurance) that if it comes back then it will be dealt with and disposed of as per the law surrounding it.
    Did you know that Knotweed was introduced to Wales by the Victorians? It was planted by the side of railway tracks to support the rails if they were on a slight slope or raised up off the ground (that’s what we were told, anyway).
    Looks like you had a great day out.

    Liked by 1 person

    • TanGental says:

      As ever you are well ahead of me. Hope they got the buggers though and you don’t need to claim. Don’t really do Countryfile. I believe Fergus has been on it, from what he said so you may Have watched him at work! And yes, apart from a bit too much standing it was a great day.

      Liked by 1 person

      • There’s so much Knotweed down here that nobody would ever buy any property in Wales, Geoff. It also spread here from Devon and Cornwall. We learned a lot about it through our solicitor while buying the house. At one stage we were about to pull out of the deal because of it, but our Solicitor came up with plenty of evidence that it’s being dealt with by insurance and mortgage companies. If the UK ever ran out of food, Knotweed would keep the nation going for some time. There are very strict laws about how to dispose of it and, if you do allow it to spread or do not dispose of it as per the law, there are very heavy fines as well as a prison sentence on offer.

        Liked by 1 person

      • TanGental says:

        Yes horrifying. Irony is it isn’t a problem in Japan because of local pets and pathogens which they are exploring to see if they might work here https://www.jksl.com/blog/is-japanese-knotweed-a-problem-in-japan

        Liked by 1 person

      • That was a good read, Geoff. Good news for us here in the UK, then? Let’s hope it works.

        Liked by 1 person

  14. Helen Jones says:

    This is something I’d be very keen to do – sounds like a wonderful day out!

    Liked by 1 person

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