The plant known as policeman's helmet or Himalayan balsam (Impatiens glandulifera) is native to the Himalayas, as the name might suggest for the brightest of us. In recent years however, it's become a real menace in Finland too. It looks pretty, so people have planted it in their gardens but it's managed to spread very effectively, invading the habitat areas of more domestic species with its huge and dense growing stalks. Luckily, unlike most other invasive weeds, this one is completely edible, so we can try to get rid of it by filling our bellies. Before flowering the stem can be used as a vegetable, the flowers themselves look decorative and the seeds make a nice snack. Unless of course, you let the pods explode and scatter their seeds all around up to seven metres. Simple minded people like me could be popping them open for hours in a row just for the fun of it.
This time of the year the stems have already gone a bit woody, but since I wanted to try this idea of filling them which I nicked from Sami Tallberg's Villiyrttikeittokirja (Readme.fi 2010), I wanted to try anyway. I was going to use cashew cheese here but since it had gone bad already while waiting for me to get round to actually doing this, I had to settle for basic store-bought spread. Tallberg describes the taste as peppery, but I got a little disappointed from the plant's lack of flavour, especially considering how aromatic it seems. This pasta might need something with more zest, say celery or extra apple. The seeds were crunchy and nice though, so they can make a nice addition to dishes. Next time I think Imight try roasting them a bit. Collecting them is less work if you wait until they're ready to pop open. Just place a bag around them and poke with your finger.
- 250 g good quality pasta
- 3 Himalayan balsam stems
- 1 dl Himalayan balsam seeds
- 4 small apples (not those watery market varieties but real apples)
- 5 spring onions with their stalks
- 50 g soy-based cream cheese spread
- 0.5 dl white wine
- 2 tbsp rape oil
- 1 tbsp spruce syrup
- 1 garlic clove
- white pepper
- flowers to decorate
Cook the pasta in well salted water. Chop the onions and sauté them in plenty of oil.Cut the apples in four parts and remove the core. Throw them on the pan as well. When the pasta is done, pour away the water. Then add the onions, the apples, the wine, the syrup and the seeds.
Crush the garlic. Mix it and pepper with the cream. Peel the balsam stems and fill them with the cream. I find this is easiest done with a syringe. If the cream seems too thick for this, add a little bit of oat milk. Cut the stems in pieces.
Arrange the stems on pasta portions. Decorate the plate with some flowers.
(I wasn't able to find any nutritional information for the balsam, so I guess there's no point in counting it for the rest of the dish either. I'll add it here in case the situation should change.)