One man’s junk is another man’s treasure. Here is a brief history of kudzu, followed by great uses for this invasive vine. Kudzu was first introduced in the United States in 1876 from Japan and was used for its thriving vegetation and fragrant flowers. In the early 1900’s it was discovered that kudzu was a nutritious fodder. By the 1930’s-1950’s, it was used for soil conservation because of its ability to grow in poor soils and its fast growing deep tap root that holds soil in place. It was also discovered that kudzu is a nitrogen fixing vine, increasing the nutrients and organic matter in the soil.
So why so much fuss about kudzu and how to remove it? In a nutshell, the woody vine of the kudzu can grow up to a foot a day. Yes, this is not a typo. In the south, there is a saying that you should close your doors and windows at night to keep the kudzu out. Although the leaves are highly nutritious as a fodder, the vines are a nuisance to land owner and farmers because they are difficult to control. Native vegetation cannot compete with kudzu, due to its fast growth and absence of time coexisting with insects in the US.
On the “treasure” side of the story, every part of the kudzu can be utilized in some way by its edible, medicinal, or practical uses. The blossoms can be made into jelly. I have made this and it tastes exactly like grape jelly-yum! The leaves can be eaten raw, steamed, boiled, fried, or pickled. Just make sure you do not harvest where anyone has sprayed pesticides. The root can be cooked like potatoes by boiling, roasting, or steaming. The root can also be used as a starch for thickening soups, stews, jelled foods, and can also be used for frying foods. As a medicinal plant, kudzu root powder or tea can be used for hangovers, indigestion, headaches, and sinus trouble, just to name a few. Paper and cloth can be made from the fibers of the vine and the vines can be woven into baskets and furniture.
In these trying economic times, is it possible that the kudzu vine could be a treasure for the southern states? Sometimes all we need to do is open our eyes and our minds to the riches that lie in front of us.
Allen, A. (2000). ASPI Publications. “Kudzu in Appalachia.”
Shores, M. (n.d.). University of Alabama Center for Public Television & Radio.
Deane, G. (2009). Eat the Weeds. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jbCMDQSWFWY&feature=PlayList&p=9CF653EB3BAB889C&playnext_from=PL&playnext=1&index=72