japanese knotweed dessert squares

On Tuesday, Temima attends a class called Coyote Pups, run by The P.I.N.E. Project.  Its a natural history class (that's how I would classify it, anyhow) run for kids age 4-8.  Andrew is the instructor of Temima's class.  He also runs the whole PINE Project.  The program is wonderful.  About 8 children arrive at 1PM on Tuesdays.  Andrew and his assistants do an opening circle time, which involves talking about their surroundings and anything else that cute little kids like to come up with.  And then they are off on an exploration of High Park, walking along the river, through the woods.  They look for animals and tracks, mimic animal sounds, learn about invasive species and wild edibles (often those are one and the same), and much more.  Andrew is charismatic, and talks to children like they are real people.  The children adore him.  He is a wonderful teacher, along with his assistants as well.   They spend three hours exploring the area, and then we go back to meet them and have a closing activity, which is writing in their giant nature journal.

This week they had collected something called Japanese Knotweed, which is an invasive species, and also edible.  Its something like rhubarb.  When the class ended, Temima, Shua, I and another mother followed her son over to where he said it was growing.  As we walked, she told me about how muddy her son had gotten on his first day in the fall session of this program.  She was amazed at how pristine Temima's mud gear was... and I explained how Temima really doesn't enjoy getting dirty.  I don't know why.  When her son brought us to the riverside area with the patch of knotweed, I got all excited about foraging, and didn't think to warn the kids about the extremely muddy area they were standing in.  Both kids fell into some really really wet mud and it was funny, but Temima panicked from it.  I calmed her down though.  I thought it was funny because the other mom had been saying how surprised she was at how clean the kids still were.

The reason I wanted to post about that day is because I harvested quite a bit of knotweed.  I had no idea what I was going to do with it.  I found a lot of ideas for recipes online, but one in particular looked easy and quick.   I followed this recipe exactly, something I never do.  It came out really good!  I've included some of my own photos of the process below.  Unfortunately I forgot to photograph the finished product.  Maybe next week.  It was a big hit when I brought it to share at our homeschool drop-in this week.

makes a 11" x 7" pan

1 c. flour
1 c. confectioners sugar
6 T cold butter

2 large eggs, beaten
2/3 c. white sugar
1/4 c. flour
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. grated fresh nutmeg
3 c. chopped knotweed stalks, leaves removed

1. Heat the oven to 350°F. Grease the 11" x 7" baking pan.

2. In a food processor, pulse the crust ingredients together to resemble coarse crumbs. Press the crumbs into the bottom of the pan evenly. Bake the crust for 12 minutes.

3. For the filling, combine the eggs, sugar, flour, vanilla, and spices with a whisk. Stir in the chopped knotweed pieces and coat them evenly. Pour the filling mixture over the warm crust and spread it evenly.

4. Bake 30-40 minutes, until the egg mixture is set and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Cool. Cut into 1" squares and serve.

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