Nutrition Spotlight: Japanese Knotweed

Of all the wild plants to be foraged along the coast of Main, perhaps one of the common and easy to forage plants has to be the Japanese Knotweed. This species of plants is both abundant and edible to humans. Not only is it fairly easy to harvest, but it can provide a tasty addition to any vegetable dish.

Nutritional Information

Japanese Knotweed is high in a chemical called emodin, which is beneficial for regulating the bowels. This plant can viably replace a store-bought laxative when its naturally occurring laxatives are stripped from their origin.

In addition to emodin, there is also the presence of Resveratrol, which has been proven to help overall cardiac health.

Cooking with Japanese Knotweed

While most consumers of Japanese Knotweed claim to serve this plant as a vegetable dish, there are a variety of ways to cook and eat it.

One of the first and most popular ways to prepare Japanese Knotweed is to tear off the leaves, cut the stalk into slices, and throw it into a jar of vinegar, water, salt, garlic, and sugar. After a few hours or days of patience, it will be time to enjoy delicious pickled Japanese Knotweed.

Another common way to eat Knotweed is to tear off the leaves and cook the stalk in the same fashion as asparagus. Although the flavor is a bit more pungent than asparagus, it is similar in texture. Throw the Japanese Knotweed into a simmering pan of olive oil, butter, and garlic to cause it to soften. Once it is done sauteeing, squeeze a dash of lemon juice over the top. 

Seasoned bakers will also use Japanese Knotweed in the same types of baked goods as rhubarbs, as there is a slight sweetness to go along with the plant’s acidity. A crowd favorite worth trying is Knotweed coffee cake.

Whether you are on a quest to forage new plants for survival or simply to enjoy the pleasures of nature surrounding you, there is no doubt that Japanese Knotweed should be at the top of the list for things to forage. While this plant grows everywhere, it is especially abundant in Maine and is almost impossible to kill. While some may see this plant as a pesky “weed,” others appreciate it for its abundance and versatility.

Nutrition Spotlight: Lobster

Us Mainers eat a lot of lobster. These crustaceans have been harvested commercially in Maine since the mid 1800’s, but even before that, they were still large, plentiful, and delicious. While Maine lobsters have become increasingly expensive, they were once one of the cheapest things a Mainer could buy – or catch – for dinner. But though lobsters are less affordable now than they were 100 years ago, we still incorporate them into our holiday meals, special dinners, and birthday feasts.

As with all local sources of Maine nutrition, lobster has its benefits and detractors. We’ve highlighted some of the most important facts about eating Maine lobster below so that you can make the best decision for yourself and your health.


Health Benefits of Lobster 

Maine lobsters are nutritionally dense. One cup of cooked lobster has close to 29 grams of protein, which is around half of a person’s daily recommended value. Lobster is also rich in copper, selenium, zinc, phosphorus, vitamin B12, magnesium, omega-3 fatty acids, and vitamin E. As a result, many studies have suggested that lobster can improve thyroid function and may have certain mental health benefits. Additionally, lobster is a great source of copper and iron for people who have iron-deficiency anemia. When eaten in moderation, lobster can be a great supplier of locally sourced nutrition.


Health Detractors of Lobster 

Though lobster has a lot of nutritional benefits, it is also a large source of fat and calories. One pound of lobster meat will yield 8.6 grams of fat and 413. While we don’t necessarily encourage folks to count their calories, those who eat a lot of lobster should look to cut fat sources in other parts of their diet. Importantly, one pound of meat will also contain 900 milligrams of cholesterol and 1,359 milligrams of sodium – around 300% and 70% of a person’s daily recommended value, respectively. We don’t recommend that people with high LDL (low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol eat a lot of lobster, but some can remain healthy and eat it in moderation.

Additionally, lobster can contain moderate levels of mercury. This means Mainers should look to restrict their lobster dinners to no more than six times per month. Additionally, pregnant women should restrict their intake of foods that may contain mercury.


How to Add Lobster to Your Diet


While lobster has its health drawbacks, doctors agree that it can be nutritionally beneficial when consumed in moderation. Next, however, comes the hard part: Finding lobster at an accessible price point. Many people who live outside of Maine tend to buy lobster online so that they can compare prices. But most Mainers don’t need to comparison shop to find the freshest lobster available. Maine lobster prices are at their lowest in May and June, when lobster fishing picks up. May is typically the best month of the year to buy live lobsters. If you’re looking to add some shellfish to your diet, this is the best time to try it. You’ll get the best lobster at the lowest price.

Nutrition Spotlight: Dandelions

Among the most nutrient-rich wild plants for foraging, the humble dandelion should never be overlooked. Widely available and easy to prepare, this nourishing wildflower is packed with vitamins, minerals and more.

Health Benefits of Dandelions

The dandelion is a veritable powerhouse of health benefits. Every part of the plant plant is edible, from flower to root, and every part contains valuable nutrients.

By adding this green to your diet, you may improve bone health, lower cholesterol, regulate blood sugar, reduce inflammation, regulate blood pressure, strengthen the immune system, promote digestive health and reduce the risk of cancer.

Key Nutrients Found in Dandelions

Vitamins & Minerals

1. Vitamins A, C & K

Especially high in vitamin A, dandelions can support healthy vision, a strong immune system and reproductive health. The vitamin C content may aid in tissue repair, wound healing, iron absorption and tooth and bone health. The vitamin K helps to produce prothrombin, a vital protein for blood clotting, which promotes fast healing.

2. Vitamins E & B9

Dandelions are also a source of vitamin E, which acts an antioxidant and promotes healthy skin, hair and vision, proper cell function and a strong immune system.

Vitamin B9, commonly known as folate or folic acid, makes the dandelion a support to nutrient absorption, healthy red blood cells and general cell production and maintenance. Studies suggest that folate may also help prevent cancer.

3. Essential minerals

Dandelions contain several essential minerals, including iron, calcium, magnesium and potassium. Add this green to your diet to support proper blood oxygen levels, good blood pressure, strong bones, healthy teeth, muscle function, nerve health and fluid balance.

Other Nutrients

1. Soluble fiber

This plant is also a wonderful source of soluble fiber, which aids in proper digestion. Plant based fiber may also help regulate glucose levels and lower cholesterol.

2. Antioxidants

Antioxidants, like the beta-carotene, polyphenols and Luteolin found in dandelions, can help your body fight against cell damage from excessive free radicals.

Adding Dandelions to Your Diet

How do you incorporate dandelions into your diet? Here are a few popular ways to prepare this healthful plant:

1. Make a salad

Leaves and flowerheads alike can be used in salad, and the sunshiny yellow petals make for a bright, cheerful display.

2. Precook for better taste

Dandelion leaves may taste bitter, somewhat like endive, or have an arugula-like spiciness. If you find the flavor too harsh, mellow it out by parboiling your greens.

3. Sauté or dry fry

After parboiling, you can sauté or dry fry dandelion greens. Try it with olive oil and garlic or onions.

4. Dandelion root tea

You can make tea from any part of the dandelion, but the root is the most commonly used part for tea.

Cooking A Cholesterol-Free Feast

When it comes to lowering one’s cholesterol levels, it is a must that one changes his or her eating lifestyle. Cholesterol buildup in the body is actually caused by eating way too much of the sinful types of food like processed meat, fried food, sugar rich foods and beverages like chocolates (although dark chocolate, the bitter kind is actually proven to help lower one’s cholesterol levels) and soft drinks. 

1. Eliminate Catalyst Factors 

It is also important to note that people who have bad lifestyle habits are the usual targets of having incredibly high cholesterol levels. Smoking and drinking are the common vices that people, not only those who are suffering from high cholesterol levels, should eliminate once and for all from their systems. 

2. Cooking With No Cholesterol In Mind 

– When buying cereals or microwavable pre-packed foods like TV dinners look at the labels on the side of the box to ensure that you are not going to take in excess calories and fat – Being aware of what you take in is the first step in lowering high cholesterol – Avoid restaurants and fast food places that offer all you can eat meals or incredibly enormous meals – The serving size listed on the packaging is sometimes misleading – a serving size is not always the total size of the package, it is often one-half or even less 

3. Know How to Read Food Labels 

Food labels are divided into two parts – the top half deals with aspects of food you should limit, such as total fat, cholesterol, sodium, carbohydrates and protein. The bottom is a summary of those you need, such as vitamins, iron, etc. 

It is actually quite hard to understand what most food labels mean, in a way they are quite deceiving. You may think that you are eating healthy when in reality you are unknowingly taking in cholesterol, fat and calories in reduced levels. Here are a list of some of the claims that we can often find on our food’s packaging according to the Food and Drugs Authority – 

– Calorie-free – 

This product has fewer calories per serving (around 5 calories less) than the leading brand. It does not mean the product contains no calories. 

– Low-sodium – 

This product contains less than 140mg of salt per food serving. 

– Low-calorie – 

The food is actually less than 40 calories per serving. 

– Low-cholesterol – 

Less than 20mg of cholesterol as well as only 2 grams of fat per food serving 

– Reduced – 

25 percent less of what health professionals specify for the nutrients as well as the calories of a usual food product of the same type. 

Nutrition Spotlight: Fiddlehead Ferns

Fiddlehead ferns are among the most abundant greenery in Maine. The circular greens are actually the curled young fronds of ferns. Each spring, new fern growths emerge as curled leaves, creating spiraled disks at the tips of each stalk. This is the edible part of the plant. They grow in New England and along the coast of Canada, and in Maine, they are typically available from April to mid-May. 

Nutritionally speaking, these funny looking ferns are pretty great. Fiddleheads contain about 22 calories, 3 grams of carbohydrates, 2.8 grams of protein, and 0.2 grams of fat per half cup. They have a high beta-carotene content, and they provide a great amount of vitamin C, niacin, and potassium.  

Fiddleheads have an interesting taste. Many describe the fern as grassy with a hint of nuttiness, while others say it is a combination of asparagus and young spinach. Some say the flavor is similar to an artichoke. In most cases, though, the plant will take on the flavor of the cooking method; if you have any picky eaters in your house, you won’t have to worry about this green. 

Price and Availability 

Fiddlehead ferns often cost just $2.50-$2.75 per pound, depending on the region and harvesting method. What’s more, you can forage these plants in your backyard, go home, and clean off the brown, papery skin to enjoy a free, home-grown meal. The activity can be labor intensive, but it’s a great excuse to spend the day outside, especially if you have young children.  


When gathering fiddleheads, you only want to keep the first one or two inches of the stem attached to the coil. Everything else should be broken off and thrown away. It is best to take just two or three coils from each patch, as taking more can destroy the whole plant. Luckily, these greens are widely available.  

There are many varieties of ferns in Maine, but the ostrich and cinnamon ferns are the only two that are edible and safe to eat. Others may be poisonous. However, if you spend a few minutes acquainting yourself with their visual differences, you shouldn’t have a problem distinguishing between them. 


Fiddleheads should be cooked thoroughly before eating. Raw fiddleheads can carry food-borne illnesses, and they may cause stomach pains and cramping when ingested in very large quantities. These ferns should be washed, added to a small amount of water (lightly salted) and cooked for about 10 minutes. The plant is best served with melted butter or vinegar. Some people prefer to cook their fiddleheads until soft, then spread them on toast. You can add them to pastas, salads, and quiches – just as long as they are thoroughly cooked before adding.  

Additional Benefits 

Fiddlehead ferns are widely available and grow naturally across the state. This is an excellent food to use as an educational tool for young children. If you see fiddleheads in your backyard, on the side of the road, or in a public space, take a moment to show your children where their food can come from. Often, if children associate specific foods with a fun activity, like biking, hiking, or spending time with family, they are more likely to eat that food. Fiddleheads are healthy and extremely low in calories, so do what you can to instill this interest in children.