Warm, gooey, crunchy, a little sour and a little sweet. This knotweed crisp is a play on a classic- strawberry rhubarb crisp, and every bit as good as the original! Japanese knotweed is a plant native to eastern Asian which has sprung up and started to take over globally. The young stalks are edible and have a sour, lemony flavor and a texture similar to rhubarb. Be careful though- the leaves are poisonous and certain areas might spray with toxic chemicals to try and control the knotweeds growth. Always use caution and know the area when foraging- for more information on knotweed, please see my entry on Japanese Knotweed Soup here.
This crisp recipe is fairly simple. When the berries and knotweed are cut into small pieces and combined with sugar, the heat of the oven causes it to create a sweet, syrupy jam. A little flour is mixed in to thicken the mixture up.
This recipe uses white sugar on the fruit as well as brown sugar in the topping. It is important to note that not all sugar is vegan. Brown sugar is made up of cane sugar combine with molasses, and cane sugar is often (although not always) bleached using animal bones. However, many sugars do not use this process. How do you tell? In the United States the only way is to either call the company or look it up on the internet- you just have to do a little research. For my crisp I used Zulka brown sugar and Trader Joe’s organic unbleached cane sugar.
In addition to the brown sugar, the topping is made of flour, oats, and walnuts to give it a variety of flavors and textures, held together with a neutral flavored oil. I decided not to use a vegan butter here, because oil tends to be cheaper and easier to find in stores. If you would rather use Earth Balance or some other vegan butter, it can easily be substituted for the oil, although I would recommend using a mixer to combine the butter and sugar more easily.
One of the most fun parts here is adding the topping to the fruit. Its one of those jobs that works much better with your fingers, and I love an excuse to play with food a little. Crisp is not a highly precise art, so there’s no need to be perfect- just make it some most of the fruit is covered with a little topping.
After that it’s just a waiting game- in about 45 minutes you should see a slight golden-brown color creeping into the topping and the pink syrupy fruit bubbling over the top. Give it a few minutes to cool (for safety!) before serving. This is the perfect, messy type of dessert to try warm over a vegan vanilla ice cream, or by itself for breakfast the next day.
Strawberry Japanese Knotweed Crisp
- 3 cups knotweed, thoroughly washed with the leaves removed, diced
- 1 lb. strawberries, diced
- 1 cup vegan white sugar
- 3 TBSP all-purpose flour
- ½ cup neutral flavored oil
- 1 cup vegan brown sugar
- 1 cup flour
- 1 cup old fashioned oats
- ½ finely chopped walnuts
1. Preheat the oven to 375°F.
2. In a large mixing bowl, combine the strawberries, Japanese knotweed, white sugar and 3 TBSP flour. Use a silicone spatula to make sure the flour is completely mixed in before transferring the fruit into a 13×9 inch glass pan. Spread it around so its close to even, although it will level out some on its own when it bakes.
3. Now it’s time to start the topping. Using the same mixing bowl as before, combine the brown sugar and the oil. Next add the flour, oats and walnuts and mix until they are the consistency of wet sand.
4. Use your fingers to distribute the topping evenly over the fruit in the pan.
5. Put in the oven and bake for 45 minutes, or until the topping has turned slightly brown and the fruit is bubbling over it. Take it out and allow it to cool for a few minutes before serving.