June 1, 2035
First Knotweed Café opened here, serving local and safely foraged invasive plants.
Japanese knotweed is an invasive species originally from East Asia. It was brought over to the Americas and became popular as a fast growing landscape feature; however, people did not yet know the ecological damage that it could cause. Japanese knotweed grows and spreads extremely quickly. Knotweed has the potential to create a desert where nothing can survive, effectively halting biodiversity. This lack of biodiversity and excess of Japanese knotweed has led to insufficient food and habitat for native species. Japanese knotweed can even increase flooding by interfering and damaging devices preventing flooding. The dangers of this invasive species are great, but there is a clear solution: we can safely consume Japanese knotweed! This is the concept of the “Knotweed Cafe”, and research revealed that there are a multitude of knotweed recipes that taste delicious.
The Knotweed Café in Arlington offers the perfect way to keep Japanese knotweed under control while bringing our community together. Our many local cafés prove how amazing food and connections can benefit Arlington residents. This twist on a regular café will have the same effect. The “locally foraged knotweed” aspect of this café is essential. The café not only uses knotweed in their products, but this knotweed will be foraged within Arlington. When customers attend this café, they will be able to feel the positive impact that they are making on the environment within their community.
Taking Action Now
You don’t have to go to a restaurant to begin tackling Japanese knotweed and its effect on our community. As mentioned earlier, there are many recipes that you can use on your own to make knotweed treats, snacks, drinks, and more. The website, Eat the Invaders, has an entire page dedicated to knotweed recipes. For these recipes, knotweed can be foraged in many places throughout Arlington, especially on the bike path. When foraging knotweed and other invasive species, it is important to be careful about contaminated soil. Plants growing in contaminated soil will absorb dangerous substances. According to the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors, some markers of contaminated soil are “apparent discolorations in soil and strong odors.” Furthermore, when foraging for knotweed, we want to stop the spread of this species, not exacerbate it. Little, leftover pieces of knotweed can create new plants if in the right environment. Because of this, make sure to prevent this further spread by allowing “them to dry out fully, or rot completely (e.g. in black plastic bag) before disposing of them” (Eat the Invaders). Another thing to think about is the different parts of foraged plants. Only some parts may be edible, so do some research to find out what is safe. Being careful when foraging is important, but eating and cooking with knotweed is a direct way to help Arlington’s environment!
With the climate crisis worsening, foraging will be an increasingly essential way to secure food. Changing temperatures, seasons, and weather patterns can make agriculture difficult. There will be instances where certain foods are expensive or simply unavailable. Foraging is a tool that can be used when buying food from other sources is impossible. In addition, foraging is almost always free. When you develop the skills necessary to know what foods in nature are safe to eat, you can save money and help the environment. The production of food produces many carbon emissions, so foraging is a sustainable alternative. Furthermore, Japanese Knotweed is not the only invasive species that can be used as a food source. Brucie Moulton from the Mystic/Charles Pollinator Pathways group notes that in addition to Japanese knotweed, garlic mustard, chicory, and Asiatic dayflower are all edible invasive plants that can be found in Arlington. Leda Meredith’s website has even more organisms to forage in the Northeast and recipes to go along with them. Just like the plants, invasive animals are being brought under control on human plates, for example, green crabs along the New England Coast and Asiatic carp in the Great Lakes. Foraging organisms, invasive or not, allows us to think locally about the broader issue of climate change.