One way to deal with invasive species? Make them into gin!

TEDxGhent speaker Geert Heyneman forages for plants (Photo: Geert Heyneman)

TEDxGhent speaker Geert Heyneman forages for plants (Photo: Geert Heyneman)

Geert Heyneman is a botanist who makes “foraged gin.” As TEDxGhent, he shares how he gives weeds and invasive plant species a second life as botanicals for his small-batch gin and vermouth — Ginderella.

“Just like Cinderella who at the beginning of the story wore dirty clothes and was not appreciated, and at the end of the story was changed into a princess, I change weeds from the surroundings of Ghent into ingredients for gin.”

One of the main ingredients of Heyneman’s gin is Japanese knotweed, a hardy, quickly-reproducing species that has taken root in Belgium and surrounding areas, outcompeting native plants and even posing danger to foundations, walls and pavement.

Japanese knotweed in Ghent (Photo: Geert Heyneman)

Japanese knotweed in Ghent (Photo: Geert Heyneman)

“Part of my job as a city ecologist is controlling this plant in Ghent,” Heyneman says. But he’s come to appreciate the plant for its own qualities — for one — its “delicious, rhubarb-like taste.”

“It’s used in Japan as a spring vegetable,” Heyneman says. “You can use it in any recipe with rhubarb.”

Heyneman's "foraged gin." (Photo: Geert Heyneman)

Heyneman’s “foraged gin.” (Photo: Geert Heyneman)

Heyneman also uses ground ivy to make his gin, a weed that often pops up in strawberry fields. “Most people see it as a creepy creeping weed,” Heyneman says, “but it has a peppery, mild taste, and it has a lot of vitamin C and minerals.”

Dandelions and daisies in Ghent  (Photo: Geert Heyneman)

Dandelions and daisies in Ghent (Photo: Geert Heyneman)

Heyneman doesn’t expect everyone to go home and start making their own gin, but he does think it’s important to take note of the plants around them. “You can make your own dandelion salad and daisy syrup,” he says, “and cut down on your need for supplements and vitamins. Remember, weeds can be useful to you.”

To learn more, watch Heyneman’s whole talk below:

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