Temperate regions worldwide abhor the invasive Eichornia crassipes, a handsome exotic that thrives in USDA zones 9 through 11. Common water hyacinth is a prolific aquatic menace with few natural controls other than cold weather. It forms dense mats that quickly clog waterways and impede irrigation. It depletes water of oxygen and provides ideal breeding conditions for mosquitoes. On the other hand, edible Eichornia is enjoyed by some in tasty cooked side dishes. It also provides free wickerlike fibers similar to costly rattan, bamboo and palm for arts and crafts. It's abundant and easy to harvest, and is a nutritious addition to the compost heap.
Grasp a water hyacinth flower spike firmly near its base and raise it upward slowly to collect a single specimen. The plant will pull away from the rest of the mass easily and take its own root system with it.
Scoop a small group of hyacinths with both hands and pull up.
Shove a pitchfork into the water just below a mass of hyacinths and lift them out of the water to harvest a larger quantity.
Use a garden rake to drag large mats of the plants onto the shore.
Spray the entire plant well with the garden hose to remove dirt and debris and dislodge unwanted insect pests. Cut the roots off with a sharp knife and toss them onto the compost heap.
Separate single water hyacinths and spread them out to dry in the sun for a couple of days to prepare them for use in handcrafts.
Seal water hyacinths meant for your table in plastic food storage bags and refrigerate for up to several days. Candy the blooms and deep-fry the float bulbs. Steam or saute stems and leaves for side dishes.
Place all unwanted water hyacinth plant materials in your compost heap. They'll degrade quickly and contribute valuable nutrients to your compost.