Education Blog

If You Can’t Beat It, Eat It- Cooking with Invasive Plants

Japanese knotweed, autumn olive, Asian bittersweet, Japanese honeysuckle, garlic mustard, mile-a-minute vine- these are just a few of the invasive plant species that can be found growing along roadsides, forests, and in our backyards.  The National Invasive Species Council defines invasive species as plants, animals, or pathogens that are non-native and cause harm.  In many circumstances, these plant species are outcompeting native species for food, space, and sunlight- ultimately interfering with natives’ growth, reproduction, and/or development.

The control and management of these organisms are of utmost concern and deserve attention.  However, for this blog I want to look at an unconventional means to controlling these plants- cooking with them.  Many foraging websites and blogs (The 3 Foragers is my favorite) share tasty recipes using many non-native plant species as their star ingredients.  This is one way interested individuals can connect with nature through their food and puts a whole new spin on the “farm to table” mentality.

Here are several recipes using common invasive species. Please, remember to never eat anything from the wild unless you have consulted an expert and have done your homework!

Autumn Olive Ketchup  (makes about 1/2 cup)

3 cups raw autumn olives (invasive)

1 T white wine vinegar

1/2 tsp salt

3 T raw sugar

1/4 tsp allspice

2 cloves of garlic, crushed

1. Add the raw autumn olives to a saucepan with 2 T water. Cook over medium heat 5 minutes, stirring, until the berries have burst. Press the pulp through a fine sieve to remove the seeds and small stems. You will end up with about 1 cup of puree.

2. Cook the puree for 5 minutes over medium heat, until the color darkens.

3. Place the puree in a blender with the vinegar, salt, sugar, allspice, and crushed garlic, and pulse a few times to smooth out the puree.

4. Return the ketchup to the saucepan and cook over low heat to reduce further. Cook for about 10 minutes, stirring often, until it is thick like ketchup. Taste and adjust the salt.

[Recipe and picture are taken from]


Garlic Mustard-Mustard  (makes about 1/2 cup)

7 T ground garlic mustard seeds (grind hard seeds in a coffee grinder and use powder immediately) (invasive)

2 tsp apple cider vinegar

1/2 tsp salt

6 T water

2 tsp agave syrup or honey

1/4 tsp tumeric

1. Whisk together the ground seeds with the salt and tumeric. Whisk in the water, honey and vinegar until smooth.

2. Allow the mustard to sit for a week in the refrigerator. It will need to be stirred before use and the color will darken. Keep stored, covered in the fridge for up to a year.

[Recipe is taken from and picture taken from]


Strawberry-Knotweed Cobbler   (serves 6)

2 cups bread crumbs

1/4 cup corn oil

2 cups soy- cottage cheese (this makes it vegan but regular cottage cheese works too)

3 cups Japanese knotweed shoots, sliced (definitely peel shoots that are over 1 foot tall because skin tends to be stringy) (incredibly invasive- any part of this plant can regenerate itself so be careful when harvesting)

2 cups strawberry jam

1 cup chopped walnuts

1.  Mix the breadcrumbs with the corn oil

2.  Layer a large, oiled casserole dish with cottage cheese, Japanese knotweed, strawberry jam, oiled breadcrumbs, and walnuts, pressing everything down with the palm of your hand.

3.  Bake, uncovered, 30 minutes in a preheated 350° F oven

4.  Chill and enjoy

[recipe taken from; pictures from]

2 thoughts on “If You Can’t Beat It, Eat It- Cooking with Invasive Plants

  1. Keep your eye out for a Group for the East End Spring exploration featuring several of the recipes written here! Hope to see you there!

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