Blog & News

Eating Invasives (archive)

Published on Wednesday November 25, 2015
Authored by PEIISC

“What is a weed? A plant whose virtues have not yet been discovered.”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson

Invasive plants can be found across PEI. Some occur in small patches, others are widespread. Some we have welcomed (e.g. lupins), others we detest (e.g. Japanese knotweed). While our opinions vary between species, I think we can all agree that there is no way we are going to eradicate all, or even a small percentage, of the invasive species present on the Island.

It seems our only option is to try to reduce the spread, prevent new introductions, and perhaps try to make the best of the situation by finding virtue in our invasives.

Many invasive species can be harvested and eaten! Here are some tips for harvesting and preparing a few invasive species we have on the Island.

Japanese Knotweed:

Best harvested in the spring, when young shoots are just emerging. The young plants resemble red asparagus stalks and are very tender. You can harvest shoots up to 2 ft tall, just be sure to remove leaves and peel the bark. It is related to rhubarb and has a similar sour taste. It can act as a laxative, so use sparingly.

For help with ID, check out our Japanese Knotweed page.

For Japanese Knotweed recipes, visit

All of the recipes are listed along the right side of the page. The Knotweed, Cucumber & Avocado Gazpacho posted in the comments section looks promising!

Garlic Mustard:

The plant has a strong garlic odour. First year plants form leafy rosettes close to the ground. Second year plants send up a flowering stalk that can reach 3 ft. Best harvested as a second year plant, when they’re less that 1ft tall, before flower buds form (end of April – May). Young second year stems can be used in stir-fry or soups.

According to Josey Schanen: “Eat the sprouts in early to mid-spring, the basal leaves and roots in late fall and early spring, the stalks and stalk leaves in mid-late spring, and the seeds from mid-summer and mid fall.”

For help with ID, check out our garlic mustard page

For Garlic Mustard recipes, visit

All of the recipes are listed along the right side of the page. Mmmm, garlic mustard pesto!

Multiflora Rose:

Flowers bloom in May/June. White-pink, showy flowers grow in clusters and are highly fragrant. A key ID feature are the long, arching branches, which bend to touch the ground. Small, bright, red hips remain on the plant through the winter. Multiflora rose hips are small, but there are lots of them!

All rose hips are edible, some species just taste better than others. Rose hips are best harvested after the first frost (right about now!). The seeds can be steeped to make a tea or grinded up and added to foods. Leaves and flower petals are also edible, and can be eaten raw. Leaves should be harvested when young, before they develop thorns on the underside.

For help with ID, check out our multiflora rose page.

For more information on harvesting and preparing rose hips, visit

Dandelions, Lamb’s Quarters, Purslane:

These common weeds grow in almost everyone’s front yard. Young leaves make excellent salad greens and can be added to soups and smoothies for added nutrition

For additional dandelion recipes, visit:

While eating invaders is not the panacea to our invasive species woes, it does help us see these plants in another light and may give us some insight into why they were brought here in the first place.

If you are going to use invasives at home, be careful not to contribute to the spread. Transport invasives carefully, to ensure no rhizome pieces or seeds escape. Never put invasive plants in your compost pile or green bin. Be sure not to harvest from areas that have been treated with chemicals!

– Julie-Lynn Zahavich, Council Member

Attached images:

Spring Japanese knotweed (Fallopia japonica) shoot
Second year garlic mustard (Alliaria petiolata) plant
Multiflora rose (Rosa multiflora) hips
Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) flowers. Photo by Green Thumb Photography