Wild Edibles: How to Eat Japanese Knotweed

by Erich

Disclaimer: Eating certain wild plants can be deadly!!

Be certain to consult a professional (or a really good field guide) in order to positively identify this plant before trying this for yourself. The owners of this site will not be held responsible for any lapses in judgment or stupidity when handling or consuming wild plants.

Japanese Knotweed (Fallopia japonica) is one of those plants you’ve probably seen a hundred times but haven’t realized it.

A native to southeast Asia, it was introduced to the United States in the late 1800s as an ornamental and has since become one of the most invasive plants in the United States, quickly spreading across to more than 40 of the 50 states. It’s root system is so invasive and strong that it can damage foundations, buildings, flood defenses, roads and so on.

Despite its bad rap, Japanese Knotweed is a great source of food and medicine and one of my favorite wild edibles in the early Spring. And since it is an invasive species, you don’t feel bad about over-harvesting it. In this post I’ll explain how to identify and harvest Japanese Knotweed and how to make a simple but delicious recipe from your foraging.

How to Identify Japanese Knotweed

The problem with Japanese Knotweed is that once you typically notice it, it is usually too late to harvest for food. In early spring, it starts out as a humble shoot that quickly grows (over an inch a day!) into a mature plant reaching upwards of 10 feet high.

Although the time to eat it is in the early spring before it begins to turn woody (under 12 inches), you’ll want to be able to identify it during its later stages of growth as well so that the next year you can return in the early spring and harvest it.

Spring Identification

Spring is the time you should be on the lookout for this plant. Here’s what to look for (images cou:

In the early spring red/purple mottled green shoots appear from the ground and grow rapidly forming canes. This is the ideal time to harvest the Japanese Knotweed shoots. You’re looking for 6 inches or less.
Late spring shoots with initial branching. You can still harvest the plant at this point as long as it is under a foot. At this stage you’ll need to peel them before consuming, since the outside has begun to get more fibrous.

Summer/Fall Identification

By summer this plant has grown to its full size. Since it typically grows from a networked root system, all of the individual mature plants form what appears to be a large shrub:

Here’s a good example of how the knotweed comes to form what looks like a large shrub.
Bamboo-like canes.
(Image courtesy of Phlorum.com) Shield shaped leaves that are aligned in an alternate pattern.
In the late summer you’ll also begin to see the flower growth.

Late Fall/Winter

During late fall and winter the knotweed’s energy will begin to travel back into the root system in preparation for the winter time. During this time the leaves fall and the stems die and turn brown. The stems (canes) typically stand during the winter which can serve as a good indication of next year’s growth.

Since it grows in colonies, the winter skeletons are easy to identify from afar.

How to Eat Japanese Knotweed

While you can eat Japanese Knotweed raw (it is tart and crispy and tastes very similar to rhubarb), ideally you’ll want to cook it. Since it tastes very similar to rhubarb, you can use Japanese Knotweed in any dish that calls for rhubarb – my favorite being strawberry knotweed pie…yumm.

Here’s a simple dish that I got from Steve Brill that I love:

Japanese Knotweed Surprise

Ingredients (for one serving)

  • 2 cups sliced apples
  • 1 cup sliced Japanese Knotweed shoots
  • 1/2 cup apple juice
  • sugar to taste (optional)
Step 1: Gather your harvested knotweed and remove any leaves and stems.
Step 2: Chop the knotweed into a small enough size to fit into your cooking pot and peel those shoots which have begun to form leaves (these will have already begun to turn stringy).
Step 3: Throw the knotweed and chopped apples into a pot and pour apple juice on top, bring to a boil and begin to simmer.
Step 4: Simmer for about 20 minutes or until soft. You will notice that the knotweed seems to melt into a thick, sauce-like consistency.
Step 5: Once the knotweed turns to a sauce-like consistency, serve and eat!

Japanese Knotweed Nutrition and Medicinal Information

Japanese Knotweed provides an excellent source of vitamin A and vitamin C. It also provides potassium, phosphorus, zinc, and manganese.

Japanese Knotweed is also an excellent source of resveratrol, the same substance in the skin of grapes and in red wine that reduces bad cholesterol and lowers the risk of heart attacks.

According to master herbalist, Stephen H. Buhner, Japanese Knotweed is very effective when it comes to treating and preventing Lyme’s disease. As an anti-inflammatory, it also helps the immune system to combat various infections, relieves symptoms of arthritis and can protect the body against neurotoxin damage.

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Comment by Amy Hassenpflug
2011-06-03 10:25:39

I presume since it grows in 40 of the 50 states that it grows in Virginia. However, I cannot remember ever seeing it. Am I correct that it is available here in Virginia? Thanks for all your GREAT information!

2011-06-05 21:09:25


Knotweed definitely grows in Virginia. It is more prevalent inland than near the coastal areas so keep you eyes out for it.

Thanks for visiting!

– Erich

Comment by Mike
2011-06-03 18:49:44

Great page I was looking for info like this. I post a video on Youtube asking for some help on the plant ID.

2011-06-05 21:11:36

Great video Mike. That’s definitely Japanese Knotweed. Be sure to try it out in the early Spring.

Comment by kialey
2011-06-27 14:21:34

this plant species has the ability to regenerate itself from any part (leaves/ stems). In picking this plant you could accidentally be spreading and invasive species and harming the natural environment. if any part of plant is lost b/t the field and eating it it could start a new population of Japanese knotweed.
i dont mean go all environmentalist on you, i just thought you might want to know.

Comment by Tactical Intelligence
2011-06-27 15:06:54


No, you’re absolutely correct. I’ll be sure to update the article to include a warning about that.

Comment by Sandy
2011-07-12 18:50:57

I’m if the leaves of the full-grown plant are edible in a salad? I can’t seem to find any information on them, all of the information I see online states using only the young shoots.

Comment by Sandy
2011-07-12 19:04:52

In reply to my own question, I found the following article stating that the “Leaves, Stems, Roots, and Seeds” of the Japanese Knotweed plant are all edible. http://scotspine.net/jap_knotweed.html

2011-07-12 20:10:03

Thanks for the great link Sandy. I’ve never tried the leaves personally (and didn’t even know they were edible to be honest) so I’ll need to try that out and let you guys know…

Comment by Robert MacElvain
2011-09-10 14:37:45

Where can I purchase a few Japanese knotweed rhizomes?

Robert MacElvain

Comment by Linda Hinchey
2012-02-21 17:16:21

I love your blog. I’d like to note that Japanese Knotweed is not a wild native plant and is extremely invasive. Not only is it bad for the environment where it is planted and spreads but it will choke out anything else you try to plant in your yard and is nearly impossible to eradicate. Spreads fast underground by the tiniest of root hairs. You would be shocked at what some folks have tried to kill it. I have a patch that came in with a load of gravel and it’s been a nightmare ever since. Maybe I should start selling it. 😉

Comment by Tactical Intelligence
2012-02-22 23:33:01

You’re absolutely right. However since it is here and available we should definitely make use of it. Absolute care needs to be taken that what you gather you use or like you said you can further exacerbate the aggressive nature of this plant.

Comment by elsa isaac
2012-04-23 16:57:14

I have knotweed. Boys do I ever have knotweed! However I am of the sort if you can’t beat it..Eat it. Thanks for the info.
However, I have a question. I have some just as described here with the white flowers as well as another very same plant, but it gets red flowers in the fall. It is a different variety? Just curious if you or anyone knows info about this?

Comment by Pete Appleton
2012-04-27 18:30:00

Whilst I am a big fan of eating wild edibles, especially invasives – having worked in conservation and witnessed the battle against Japanese Knotweed, I see two issues:

1) This may be against the law in certain areas. In the UK, for example, you need a specific license to remove Japanese Knotweed from a site. This is for good reason – Japanese Knotweed is highly invasive and even just the tiniest bit on the tread of your boot can spread it to a new location.

2) I am concerned after seeing Knotweed treated with high levels of pesticide. You might, unwittingly, go and eat some that has just been blasted with the stuff a few days ago. This probably isn’t good. Then again, it could conceivably be a similar dose to the standard dose than your Roundup Ready “food” served up in the US.

Despite both of these, a friend once treated me to some Japanese Knotweed wine that he had brewed himself. It was fantastic, and washed down our wild mushroom omelette beautifully!

Comment by bry8iyze
2012-12-03 16:09:52

Herbicides (not pesticides!) are often sprayed on stands of this invasive weed so don’t collect from stands along roadside or utility right-of-ways, abundant as they may be. This weed often propagates along streams and rivers where herbicde use would not be allowed so that is a pretty safe place to collect. Just don’t add to the invasion by letting plant scraps fall!

Comment by Tactical Intelligence
2012-12-03 23:15:59

Thanks for the good info.

Comment by Mary
2013-04-13 01:30:35

you never give the techical (dont know the word i need) nane so i can check them out in Australia as same of your names are different to us over here. but thankyou for great site. know im going to find good info on it

2013-04-18 18:47:24

Hi Mary,

The word is in the first sentence, “Fallopia japonica”.

thanks for visiting!

– Erich

Comment by Elizabeth Mills
2013-05-10 14:15:07

I have this growing all over my hill side invading everything. How can I kill it out in some places, I would leave it over by the fence line but it is in my flower beds. Help.

Comment by john
2013-05-14 20:56:10

Have you eaten the seeds, what did they taste like.

Comment by Matt
2013-06-07 23:50:30

Thank you we have this growing in our garden and had no idea what it was, then magically found this and now I now. Glad to know that this is a healthy plant not just another weed like we had heard.

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2013-06-08 11:31:27

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2013-06-24 20:19:56

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Comment by Gord
2013-07-09 15:05:58

Thanks for a great information source.
I’ve been wondering about harvesting during the summer. All of the sites I see suggest to only harvest in the spring, when the new shoots are 15-20 cm. I’m finding loads of new shoots midway through the summer (surrounding an existing stand, so I’m sure they are from the same root system)

Are new shoots still safe to eat later in summer? I’ve tried eating the entire thing (stem, shoot, and leaves) by steaming for a minute. They taste a bit bitter, then quite sour, but so far I haven’t died…

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2013-08-06 15:55:38

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2013-08-08 11:49:41

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Comment by Tom Seymour
2014-03-13 15:04:29

I’m not convinced that a Japanese Knotweed leaf dropped on the ground has the ability to regenerate. The same would hold true for the stem. The root system is a different thing. It does regenerate. But most knotweed patches extend their range with human help. The next time the road crew uses state or federal highway dollars to make another roadside ditch…”make work projects,” in other words, take note if they disturb a knotweed patch. If so, you’ll eventually see a long ditch filled with knotweed. But it’s not the plant’s fault.

I don’t mean to insult anyone by my skepticism. I do plan on trying to see if I can make my own knotweed patch spread by leaves or shoot cuttings. I have had difficulty in getting knotweed to grow in the gravelly, moist soil where I planted it. Groundnut vines, also growing on the same site, strangle the knotweed, killing many plants.

Comment by Jonah Gadoury
2014-04-24 15:36:11

So I had this brilliant idea to substitute rhubarb with knot-weed the other day for a strawberry – knot-weed spring desert…you got me!

Comment by Janet Pesaturo
2014-05-13 13:27:24

Hello, and thanks for the great article. I am wondering at what stage the stalks become inedible. Can you eat the stalks after they are 2 feet tall, of just when they are small shoots?

Comment by Tactical Intelligence
2014-05-15 10:24:14

Hey Janet,

Yeah, they start getting pretty woody after around a foot tall. At two feet they’re pretty much unusable.

Comment by Suzanna Love
2014-05-19 11:38:29

Thanks! I was wondering about that as I was tearing it out of the ground. I suspected as much and, luckily, have never put it in the compost heap. Now, my attack will be on two fronts- I shall,also, cook it and drink the tisane for my arthritis.

Comment by Suzanna Love
2014-05-19 11:48:13

Hello, Steve Brill, et al.,
If you boil it at any stage, will it yield a drinkable liquor? And will that liquor/tea/tisane/tincture have the same health benefits as using just sprouts?

Comment by Suzi
2016-01-26 15:13:53

It grows on my property & it is INDEED invasive….I’ve tried to rid myself of it but it just keeps growing…..I am at least thankful to find there is ONE redeeming quality to the hideous plant.

Comment by tim sharp
2016-04-23 18:43:28

I have been gathering and eating Japanese Knotweed (in France, as it happens) for three years. I tend to cook it up with orange juice and a little sugar and have it with raw oats and a little creme fraiche for breakfast. While certainly endorsing the benefits, I would add two notes of caution: first, in Europe at least, its pest status leads some landowners to spray with herbicide during the growing season. Always be sure that the early shoots you are gathering have not been sprayed. Second, knotweed is high in oxalic acid (as is rhubarb). If you have kidney function problems, it should be eaten in moderation. For beekeepers, oxalic acid is also useful in the battle against varroa infestation and experiments are going on into using the leaves in beehives as a natural defence against that pest.

Thanks and keep harvesting !

Comment by Kathy
2016-05-01 07:31:31

Have you ever used knotweed in a juicer?

Comment by Cledus
2016-05-08 00:53:32

It definitely grows in central virginia because it is taking over my garden and everything else it can.

Comment by Bill
2016-05-21 17:50:28

This plant can’t be bought. Find some. For god sake don’t plant it. It’s a US WIDE invasive.

Comment by Rita
2016-06-23 15:53:23

Can I eat the root of the plant also?

Comment by Rita
2016-06-23 15:54:43

Can I eat just the root and if so how do I prepare it.

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2016-10-06 18:54:37

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Comment by raincrow
2017-02-08 17:26:12

In the State Forest near where I live, I found a single clump of the red-flowering type of this plant, surrounded by Japanese Honeysuckle, Red Buckeyes, and Stinging Nettles. It was in early Fall, and I never would have found it if not for the conspicuous red bloom spikes. Something there is keeping it under control, since it has not spread in the eight years since I found it. Since it’s considered invasive, I’m going to see if I can dig it out and transplant it somewhere in my yard. I am in need of it’s medicinal benefits.

Comment by Wallace
2017-03-27 02:55:23

Continual mowing will eventually deprive the roots of nourishment. Each year the new shoots are smaller and weaker. I leave a few small patches at the edge of the woods for food.

Comment by onna
2017-04-17 21:52:26

I live in Northeast Pennsylvania and have Japanese Knotweed in my yard. I think it
is a wonderful plant if you don’t let it get out of control.
The white flowers smell nice and the bees love them.
I am learning how to cook and eat this plant.
There are many uses for Japanese Knotweed and you can make nice crafts and fences out of it too!
God is so awesome that He gave us so many cool plants!
I would love to learn more uses for Japanese Knotweed so please share your thoughts!

Comment by Maureen
2017-07-16 01:07:36

Sandy – Can’t find your article. Do you still have a copy? Thanks!

Comment by Karen
2017-07-29 23:05:40

It is indeed a noxious species, and is becoming a real problem in waterways and on roadsides, etc. The only way we managed to eradicate a patch in our yard was to wait until the ground was dry and hit it with Round Up continuously all spring and summer, for four or five years in a row. The Dept of Environment here is trying various methods to combat it but is not having much luck. It is true that any bit of the rhizome will start a new patch. We were told to dig down as far as 8 feet and to ensure no pieces of rhizome were left, seal in black garbage bags and leave them on pavement for a season or two, and then dispose of in the garbage. Unfortunately Round Up is banned here now so it is really out of control.

Comment by jennie
2017-09-13 20:03:47

The summer and autumn shoots are tough and straggly – but the spring shoots are tender and juicy! That’s why everyone talks about harvesting in spring – very tasty!

Comment by GerrardR
2017-10-22 13:15:55

Can it be cooked and then frozen to use throughout the year without losing medicinal benefits?

Comment by Paul
2018-04-25 17:23:28

Hi, I own land in upstate NY, with a creek on it, and there is lots of this plant growing along the creek; the local farmer that rents our field has plowed it under for years to keep it at bay, but it is on both sides of the creek in abundance. I used to hate it, but now love it. I started bee keeping with my children four years ago. We moved our hives up to this track of land during the fall bloom and the honeybees loved it. They produced a record amount of dark honey. They made 60 – 100 lbs. of honey per hive in two weeks time. We had three of our super hives (7 – 8 box hives) draw almost 400 lbs. of honey each. It took three strong men, all they could do to lift the hives back onto the trailer, to take them back home. I haven’t tried eating the plant, but thought the post about the oxalic acid was interesting, as we use that to kill the Vero mites. We will take the bees to this parcel of land earlier this year to reap the full benefit of this plant. Anybody who is bothered by this plant on their land, should consider getting honeybees. It would be a sweet alternative to killing this plant.

Comment by john h
2018-07-12 03:10:35

all wild plants are edible, some only once.

Comment by Leftcoast3ce
2018-08-28 16:15:19

Herbicides ARE pesticides. The definition is set by the US EPA, as here:
https://www.epa.gov/minimum-risk-pesticides/what-pesticide . Furthermore, there are aquatically approved herbicides that might be applied to waterways, such as Aquamaster (an aquatically approved formulation of glyphosate), or Habitat (an aquatically approved formulation of imazapyr). So collecting by waterways does not in any way guarantee that the plants you collect from are not treated, and it behooves you to know the history of the patch you’re collecting from.

Please don’t spread this thing around. It eats stream beds for lunch, and wipes out many native fish populations, including salmon. Like eating native stuff? Salmon is way better for you than knotweed. And salmon belongs here. Knotweed doesn’t.

Comment by Phyllis DeVries
2018-09-09 05:09:40

I first noticed this unusual plant over 25 years ago in Ketchikan AK. Having been a life long Alaskan, I had never seen it before and was curious about it. Well 15 years after first seeing it, I know what it is. It has invaded everywhere! It’s unbelievable is in town and way back in the woods. It’s here too stay. There’s no hope of it being destroyed. It can choke out salmon berries. This thing is an imortal, great Goliath.

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Comment by Z ZON
2019-05-15 19:07:53


Excellent kindling for a fireplace
Maybe it could be ground up pressed into pellets with saw dust for a pellet wood stove.
dry it is great stalks for kids or adults to build things -make craft projects with string and glue and its free
With wood and string-rope you can make a sun cover shade grid garden trellis – roof etc.
Its not strong by itself but with other wood and rope it can be useful dry
it floats – good for scale model raft – cotton or natural string and it totally decomposes.
I have never seen a shoot or leaf grow on its own…only the ryzome root
If that were the case every leaf would grow – every green stalk grow …but i have never ever seen that around here in the north east. Broken roots will take hold and grow but i have never seen green or dry stalks take hold and grow….I could be mistaken so do your own research.
hollow tubes good for insect or ant farm aquarium project for the kids.
Tubes for water fountains – a long metal rod easily pushed through the shoot will make it a tube good for water flow.
– certainly bamboo has a far stronger structure but knot weed is local and free – light weight – easy to cut green or dry.
branches and small diameter parts of the weed are far stronger and good for crafts.
The root is rock hard and can be used dry like wood
Goats will eat most anything green especially when the KW shoot is small springtime.
In the hot sun a dark hot plastic or tarp or tiles will prevent its growth for a season or so – then plant other ground cover if the roots are dead. experiment with a hot cover over an area.
KWeed will lead to erosion as its roots are not as complex and big as a large tree and most grass will not grow on shaded ground surfaces.
the honey is darker my bee keeping neighbor told me.
Use your imagination and come up with many other uses for this plentiful plant….make it a gift.

Comment by Joy
2019-05-17 01:28:33

You should never have to buy it. It grows everywhere. However, if you really are in a place that it doesn’t grow, try Mountain Rose Herbs.

Comment by Joy
2019-05-17 01:33:32

While it may be difficult to grow in your soil, once it gets established it’ll be much, much harder to keep it contained. There’s plenty around; please don’t plant more.

Comment by Brian
2019-06-08 00:28:31

I’d like to correspond with you about knotweed and bees. I’ve lost all my bees the last two years and wonder what you’ve discovered.
bjhayman at msn dot calm

Comment by Misty
2019-06-27 00:45:42

Can’t we make tea of it? I want to get the benefits for many months! Thanks!

Comment by Ken
2019-10-10 00:28:33

Herbicides and insecticides are both pesticides. Fyi

Comment by Diane
2020-02-23 21:03:10

I always heard this was true, however I have used the leaves as mulch in the summer and when the stalks have turned brown in the fall they rapidly decay into great organic matter. The key is to put them on the dry parts of your land as they only seem to multiply along the riverbanks and wet areas. They have never formed new growth or spread from any of the areas I have used them as mulch as long as I have not brought the roots along. I dig up the roots and pile them into a sunny spot on rocks (or some people cover them with black plastic tarp), and the roots will dry. The roots have medicinal properties, as mentioned in article, and are growing in areas where lyme disease might be contracted.

Comment by Louis
2020-04-01 20:09:08

Can the Springtime Red bumps (about 2cm.) be eaten ?
If so, how would you suggest it be prepared ?

Comment by Steen
2020-04-07 20:01:25

I have bags of it. Are you sure you want it?

Comment by Hazel
2020-04-24 18:06:34

No! No! No! Do not EVER plant knotweed. No matter what you do, it will take over any space! It is huge, grows practically overnight. It kills everything in its path, including trees. It invades foundations, stone walls, shrubs. The rhizomes go deep, and extremely strong, travelling far. By all means, make use of some if you find it growing wild. But do not drop pieces, because they will root in a rainstorm. My land is infested, despite years of trying everything, reading all the websites for North America and UK. Highly toxic weedkillers work, but not if the weed has taken over an extensive area.

Comment by Sarah Reid
2020-04-28 21:47:05

Oh don’t! Please don’t! This plant is so invasive that it’s illegal to plant it in some countries. It will spread all over your garden. You can’t stop it. It can heave sidewalks and destroy building foundations. I have spent 30 years trying to get rid of it and it’s winning. It has swallowed most of my yard and is working on the house now.

Comment by Bryan
2020-04-29 18:29:55

Please for the love of God, don’t plant this stuff anywhere!!!

Comment by Betta
2020-07-07 11:22:33

Does anyone know if you can eat the leaves? I made tea with them more than once but I wonder if you can use them for stuffed leaves recipes…cooked obviously.

Comment by Betta
2020-07-07 11:25:01

If you only knew the benefits of this plant you would be grateful…
If you get Lyme is about the only thing that will get you out of it…

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