Side Dishes

Japanese Knotweed: A Healthy Edible Invasive

Japanese knotweed has a short 3-week growing season, but it can be frozen raw and used all year. If you like the taste of rhubarb, you'll enjoy knotweed. For more information about the best way to harvest knotweed, check out my e-book Joyful Foraging: Learn How to Feast on the Food Growing All Around You. Field garlic and garlic mustard, additional recipe ingredients, are also covered in this e-book.

One of the challenges of our virtual world, is that I never know who is really trying to find me. Before I launched TheJoyfulForager.com, I was WriterByNature.com. A huge shout out to Carly Leusner for crediting me for this knotweed recipe, even when I was in a state of metamorphosis.

Carly, if you're still around, Joe is a fellow member of the Connecticut Westchester Mycological Association. I'm reintroducing the chicken mushroom ingredient, which was part of Joe's original recipe:


4 Cups Cleaned/peeled Japanese knotweed
2 TBS Honey or agave
3 TBS Tamari or soy sauce
6-12 Field garlic leaves and bulbs (pull up a large clump)
1/2 tsp Grated fresh ginger
1 Carrot, shredded
6-8 Garlic mustard flower clusters for garnish

1. Japanese knotweed
2. Chicken of the woods mushroom
3. Field garlic
4. Garlic mustard top leaves and flower
5. Violet flowers

1. Garlic
2. Ginger
3. Carrot
4. Sesame oil

1. Honey
2. Tamari or soy sauce

Choose knotweed stalks that are flexible, no thicker than young asparagus stalks.
Trim leaves from stalks and gather enough to fill a paper grocery bag
That should yield about 4 cups

If you are lucky enough to find fresh chicken mushroom, and/or field garlic harvest them both.
Keep an eye out for garlic mustard leaves and flowers and for violet flowers - both for plating and garnish

1. Rinse knotweed and peel the thin outer layer
2. Slice knotweed crosswise or at an angle into bite-size pieces
3. Grate ginger
4. Shred or grate raw carrot
5. Clean chicken mushroom with a damp cloth or paper towel
6. Cut mushroom into bite-size pieces
7. Chop field garlic (or onion) and sauté until golden
8. Add chicken mushrooms, cooking until they release, then reabsorb moisture
9. Whisk oil, honey, tamari and ginger until blended
10. Add knotweed and carrot and mix again
11. Add cooked ingredients and blend until everything is coated

Line serving dish with garlic mustard leaves
Use a slotted spoon to cover with knotweed mustard salad
Garnish with violet flowers and garlic mustard flowers

Serve warm or chilled

When I took this photo, I had hit the forager's lottery also finding wild ramp leaves. I made rice and served this as a main dish, instead of a side dish. Knotweed can be savory or sweet, as in this recipe for knotweed compote.

Urban Foraging: Take a Mini-Vacation and Eat Well for Free

Wow! Has it been a whole year since I did this Savvy Radio interview with Christina Nitschmann? 

We talked a lot about healthy eating on a budget and how foraging is more than just finding free food, it's a way to create a mini vacation and meditation break in NYC's otherwise overstimulating environment.

Here's a link to that interview:













TJF Originals, Treats

Cattail Pollen Cookies: The Joyful Forager's Truly Original Recipe

Cattails have been called nature's supermarket because every part of this plant can be prepared as food or supplies.

The pollen that forms on the male flower head has the texture of pastry or bread flour and has been used in pancake and biscuit recipes for millennia.

Searching online for a cattail pollen cookie recipe, asking fellow foragers and posting to social media foraging groups yielded no cookie recipe.

There was nothing else for me to do but embrace the opportunity, and invent cattail pollen cookies.

Find my step-by-step directions for harvesting cattail pollen after the recipe.

Once you get home, the cattail pollen has to be sifted two or three times to remove bits of seed head fluff or any other non-pollen material. But once you sift the golden yellow powder, it's ready for use. Cattail pollen has remained fresh in my freezer for over two years. If it's in the refrigerator, it gets eaten within a few weeks, not because it is perishable, but because pollen is also delicious in salads, cereal and even as a thickener for soups and stews.

Here is my standard basic cookie recipe which makes it easy to create variations on the theme: 

JJ's Basic Cookie Recipe                                                                                                                                  1/2 cup coconut oil
3/4 cups of sugar - I use turbinado sugar
1 egg
1-1/2 cups of unsifted pastry flour
1-1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 tbs flavor:
vanilla, maple syrup, rose water, or hazelnut
1/2 cup texture:
rose petals, pecans, walnuts, butternuts, cacao nibs, dates, coconut, oatmeal

JJ's Recipe Revamp                                                                                                                         

In this recipe I did not want any flavors or textures to compete with the cattail pollen so my revamp of myself used:

1/2 cup coconut oil
3/4 cup white sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 egg
10 oz unsifted pastry flour
2 oz cattail pollen
1-1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt

Timeline                                                                                                                                                                  Late Spring to Early Summer: Once a year cattails produce pollen, usually in June in Northeast part of North America. Gather pollen when you see the top male cattail heads covered in bright yellow pollen. You can store the pollen in a freezer for at least one year.

Once harvested, sift the pollen to remove any bits of fluffy cattail flower head or other material. Once sifted, store in air tight containers in the freezer.

One Hour Before:                                                                                                                                           Combine coconut oil (or butter if you prefer) and sugar. If you use white sugar, the cookie may swell in size while baking.                                                                                                                                                  Combine flour, cattail pollen, baking powder and salt.                                                                                   Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients. Mix thoroughly and let the mixture cool in the refrigerator for 20-30 minutes.

Thirty Minutes Before:                                                                                                                                          Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Heat oven to 300 degrees
Remove mixture from refrigerator and make walnut size balls of dough
Place on cookie sheet and flatten to about 1/4 inch thick

15 Minutes Before:                                                                                                                                               Put cookies in preheated oven and bake 10 - 15 minutes, until underside of cookie is golden brown.           Remove from oven and let cookies cool before putting them on a dish.                                                       Serve and enjoy!

How to Harvest Cattail Pollen                                                                                                                       What You Will Need:                                                                                                                                    -Long thin bags, like a paper baguette bag
-Waders or other footwear to wade into wetlands
-Cattails growing in an area with no visible signs of pollution

Cattails typically grow in dense clusters, which makes foraging easier, but they grow in wetlands, marshes and other moist areas, which makes foraging a bit more of a challenge.

Cattails are part of Nature's clean-up crew, so look for a stand of cattails in an area that is not near a waste treatment plant or other industrial activity.

The brown cigar-shaped seed head is an unmistakable identifying feature of cattail. In the winter, these brown seed heads turn into a white fluff, which makes it easy to locate a stand of cattails before the tender shoots emerge in the spring.

Some people create small ponds as part of the landscape design on their property. It's possible to transplant the cattail rhizomes and grow them in these ponds.

When it comes to collecting cattail pollen, if you listen to the prevailing advice and shake the pollen into a paper or plastic bag, some of the pollen will land in the bag. A lot more will fly in to the air and land on you. A better strategy is to cover the entire flower head with a
bag and cut the flower head. Those long slender bags that baguettes come in work very well for this purpose.

There is a very short window of time when the pollen is available for collecting. Some years you only have a few days. Look for the fattest seed heads for the most pollen.

Once you have collected a number of seed heads, you will need to bring them home and sift the pollen to remove and fibers or insects. The pollen can be eaten raw sprinkled on salad, cereal or added to yoghurt. It can also be added as a thickener to soups and stews.

Some people claim it can be used as a substitute for saffron. That may be true for the color, but cattail pollen has a delicate flower taste. The fewer ingredients in the cattail pollen recipe, the more you will be able to taste the delicate cattail pollen flavor.

The pollen has no leavening agent, so when baking with it, you need to mix it with flour.

Whether you make pancakes, biscuits or cookies, the color of the dough will be a dazzling sunshine yellow.