Last year, we wrote a blog post about The “Mile-A-Minute” Vine and to date it has been one of CLC Tree Services most visited pages. I suppose it makes sense, as the kudzu vine is an extremely aggressive species, and its spread throughout the US comes with a high price tag. The fast spreading, non-native vine has covered more than 2 million acres across the southeastern USA and that area will unfortunately continue to rise, due to the difficulty of eradicating this noxious weed and its virulent growth. Now while we have already expounded on the detriments of this much maligned plant, the benefits were only briefly glossed over. Since the odds of it disappearing any time soon are slim to none, CLC thought it might be worthwhile taking another look at kudzu today.
KUDZU: Is It Really That Bad?
How can something so pretty be all bad? Well, cattle and goats love it and it is cultivated in places just to be used as animal fodder. In fact, if left to eat kudzu to their heart’s desire, animals can help to weaken the vine enough to eradicate it over time. Good to know, if you want to get rid of the mile-a-minute vine, but if you want to keep it, then don’t forget to let your field regenerate itself with a break from grazing on occasion.
Of course, you might want to utilize this sturdy vine in any number of cottage industries as well. Why not, when there is so much of it around! You can make baskets, wreathes, sculptures, paper, soap, jewelry and many other forms of artwork out of it. You wouldn’t be the first one to think of it either, as a google search of “kudzu baskets” will net you results in the 200,000+ range. That being said, it is an excellent way to productively use a resource that is literally crawling in people’s doors and windows overnight in the southern states.
There are others out there that praise this invasive weed for other reasons as well. It has been used in homeopathic remedies in China, India and Japan, and has now crossed over into the North American market also. The biggest potential benefit of kudzu is in the treatment of alcoholism. There are studies that show it reduces cravings for alcohol, the amount of alcohol that is actually imbibed, as well as limiting the effects of alcohol, like headaches, dizziness, vomiting and alcohol-induced sleep. Even if you take alcohol out of the equation, kudzu has been shown to reduce intensity, duration and frequency of headaches in migraine sufferers. The isoflavones found in kudzu (ie. daidzein, daidzin, tectorigenin & peurarin) are also linked to benefits for women suffering from menopausal symptoms (like hot flashes, vaginal dryness & night sweats), for muscle aches and pains, as an agent to reduce high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels and high blood sugar levels in diabetics, plus there is evidence to suggest that it improves blood flow to the heart and brain. The added bonus is that there is no purported evidence to show any toxicity to humans. That means it is safe for almost anyone to use, although I would always suggest talking to your doctor before starting any new treatment plans.
So if we are stuck with this noxious weed, then we might as well make the best of it. As another step in getting rid of it, let’s dig in to this edible plant, since the vines tips, young leaves, flowers and even the roots are all safe to eat. There are recipes galore out there for kudzu quiche, jellies, collard-like preparations and more. Here is a kudzu recipe that I found at Southern Delights that sounded interesting. Forget cabbage rolls. How about Rolled Kudzu Leaves! Enjoy!
ROLLED KUDZU LEAVES*
- Kudzu Leaves
- 1 can diced tomatoes
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 3 cloves garlic, cut in half
- Juice of 3 lemons
- Soup bones (optional)
- 1 cup rice, rinsed in water
- 1 pound ground lamb or lean beef.
- 1 cup canned diced tomatoes
- 1/2 teaspoon of allspice
- Salt and Pepper to taste
- Gather about 30 medium size young kudzu leaves. (The very big ones have tough centres and radiating stem veins). Make sure area has not been sprayed with chemicals.
- Wash leaves. Drop into salted boiling water. Boil 2-3 minutes, separating leaves. Remove to a plate to cool. Remove heavy centre stems from the leaves by using a knife and cutting down each side of the stem to about the middle of the leaf.
- Combine stuffing ingredients and mix well.
- Push cut leaves together and fill with 1 teaspoon stuffing, then roll into cigar shape. Place something in bottom of a large pan, so that rolled leaves do not sit directly on the bottom of pan. (I use a round rack that came with my pressure cooker. Soup bones work great too)
- Arrange kudzu rolls alternately in opposite directions. When all are in the pot, pour in a can diced tomatoes, 2 teaspoons of salt, and 3 cloves of garlic, cut in half. Press down with an inverted dish and add water to reach dish. Cover pot and cook on medium for 30 mins. Add lemon juice and cook 10 mins more.
*Recipe source from http://bit.ly/GFogiy