Monday, July 10, 2006

Speaking of Kudzu...

Did y'all know that you can eat the stuff? I didn't. Not until I ran across some Kudzu Jelly at Cades Cove in the Great Smoky Mountains. That led me to do some research into the scourge of the south and what I found was amazing and slightly weird.

Kudzu Jelly is made with the kudzu blossom. Now, I have heard that the blossom smells slightly like grapes and I know one lady who makes kudzu-scented soaps, but I have never had the opportunity to smell a blossom myself. To be honest, even growing up in Alabama, I never knew kudzu had blossoms. I am not the only one it seems. A lot of people never notice. I mean, who really looks at kudzu anyway? We southerners hate it.

But Jane Linton over at her websight, Southern Delights, says you can use every part of the kudzu plant. Her Kudzu Jelly recipe as well as her Rolled Kudzu Leaves with Stuffing recipe will be an interesting addition to your meal. She even suggests frying your chicken with kudzu powder.

According to Indian Spring Herbal Encyclopedia, "Kudzu has more calories per gram than honey, but unlike honey, which is quick burning sugar, Kudzu is a long sustaining source of energy."

Hmmm, maybe I should start taking it.

Herbal Extracts Plus says that " Kudzu has long been a treatment for alcohol abuse in the Orient. The tea that is made from Kudzu is called xing-jiu-ling, which is literally translated as "sober up." Researchers in Indiana University discovered two compounds in Kudzu that alter the enzymes that break down alcohol in the liver, and as a result, an alcohol byproduct, acetaldehyde, builds up, producing nausea, facial redness, and general discomfort in the subject. The chemicals daidzin and daidzein in the roots and flowers appear to suppress the appetite for alcohol."

They go on to say "Traditional herbalists have valued the starch content in Kudzu as a way to soothe minor digestive system problems and gastrointestinal discomforts such as heartburn, acid indigestion, abdominal cramps, diarrhea, gas, colitis, dysentery, gastritis, nausea, and vomiting.

"Kudzu could be helpful in the treatment of congestive heart failure and heart attack. Flavonoid-like substances in Kudzu appear to help blood flow through the coronary arteries, lower blood pressure, and improve circulation; and one compound in Kudzu, puerarin, is a beta-blocker, which seems to reduce a racing pulse induced by stress."

And it just goes on and on...

Oxford Stroud, an author who taught at Auburn University, also used kudzu to make Kudzu Tea. Doens't sound very appetizing to me, but each to his or her own.

The website, Mountain Manna, sells exotic jellies including Kudzu Jelly as well as dandelion and honeysuckle jellies.

While surfing, I read about a lady who would deep fry kudzu leaves for her kids and they loved it! She just used buttermilk and seasoned flour. I'll have to try that. Of course, everyone says to use kudzu that hasn't been sprayed with chemicals. That's a given.

You can also weave baskets out of the cane of the kudzu vines. There seems to be many ways to utilize the plant that I had never heard of. My mama always said, "You learn something new every day," but I don't think even she has ever heard of kudzu jelly. Some people even make decorative paper out of kudzu.

According to the Natchez Naturalists Newsletter, "you can make Kudzu tea, jelly, vinegar, syrup and wine from the flowers, and these should be delicious because the flowers smell a lot like grape juice. Cattle, donkeys, pigs and goats thrive eating Kudzu vines. Hay made of Kudzu contains 12 to 15% protein. Nutritious noodles can be made from Kudzu root-powder, which sells for about $30/pound. A tough, beautiful cloth and a delicate paper costing $3/sheet can be made from fibers extracted from Kudzu vines, and sturdy baskets can be woven from Kudzu vine stems."

Kudzu may be the "Scourge of the South", but it seems as if there are so many new uses for the weed, that there may be hope for the south at last. So if you are being attacked by the green, leafy plant, go and make a batch of kudzu jelly, a basket, or some fried kudzu leaves. I think I might just be brave enough to try one, two or even three of those suggestions myself.
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© 2006 Dana Sieben