kudzu

14 Interesting Facts About Kudzu

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Introduction

Kudzu is an invasive vine that is notorious for overtaking landscapes across the southeastern United States. With its fast growth rate and ability to spread rapidly, kudzu has earned a bad reputation over the years. However, this versatile plant has served various purposes, including as a food source, over the centuries. Read on to discover 14 fascinating facts about the culinary uses of kudzu.

Facts About Kudzu

  1. Kudzu has been used in Chinese medicine for over 2,000 years. Records show kudzu root has been used to treat a variety of ailments since 200 BC. Traditional Chinese medicine utilizes all parts of the kudzu plant, from its flowers to its roots.
  2. Kudzu leaves, shoots, blossoms, and roots are edible. While the roots are most commonly consumed, the entire kudzu plant is edible. The leaves make a nutritious cooked green similar to spinach. The shoots and blossoms can be eaten raw or cooked as well.
  3. Kudzu root powder is used to make herbal teas and tinctures. Dried and pulverized kudzu root can be used to brew medicinal teas. It can also be soaked in alcohol to produce kudzu tinctures, believed to help alleviate menopausal symptoms, treat diabetes, improve heart health, and more.
  4. Kudzu root starch is a common ingredient in Asian noodles. In Japan, kudzu starch is used to make shirataki noodles and rice cake treats. It serves as a gluten-free, low-calorie substitute for traditional noodles. These translucent noodles soak up the flavors of broths and sauces.
  5. The roots can be cooked and eaten like potatoes. Fresh kudzu roots have a subtle nutty flavor. They can be boiled, steamed, fried, or baked and used similarly to potatoes in stews, fritters, and hash. Removing the tough outer bark makes the inner pith tender enough to eat.
  6. Kudzu flowers lend a sweet fragrance to jellies and desserts. The grape-scented blossoms bring their perfumed aroma and purple coloring to jams, jellies, syrups, and more. The flowers can also adorn cakes and fruit salads or be pickled and used as a garnish.
  7. The vines produce an edible fruit similar to grapes. Kudzu vines yield brown, hairy seed pods containing three to ten edible seeds. These juice-filled seeds have a tart taste akin to grapes. They can be eaten raw or made into jelly.
  8. Kudzu leaves are a key ingredient in Vietnamese cuisine. In Vietnam, the leaves are called rau dâm bí đao and are widely consumed. They get used as fillings in spring rolls, a flavorful component of noodle soups, or simply eaten raw in salads.
  9. Some honeys feature kudzu blossoms as the main nectar source. Bees produce a light-colored, subtly floral honey made predominantly from the nectar of kudzu flowers. This sweet syrup gets used to make honey butter, vinaigrettes, barbecue sauces, and more.
  10. There’s a traditional Korean pork dish that uses kudzu root starch. Jungol guksu features thin potato starch noodles in a meaty broth along with kudzu root starch, which lends thickness to the soup. The starch balls soak up the flavors of the broth.
  11. The roots may be able to substitute for corn starch as a thickening agent. The starchy kudzu tubers can be dried and ground into a very fine powder to use similarly to cornstarch for thickening sauces, gravies, puddings, and more.
  12. Some distilleries are experimenting with kudzu flower liqueurs. A few adventurous southern distillers are starting to produce kudzu blossom-infused spirits. These liqueurs highlight the fragrant purple blooms in floral cocktails and cordials.
  13. There’s a traditional Japanese confection called kuzumochi made from the root. Kuzumochi are dense, stretchy cakes crafted from kudzu root starch and brown sugar. Their unique, chewy texture comes from the starch glucomannans.
  14. Some southeastern U.S. wineries incorporate kudzu blossoms into their wines. As an added flavor, a few southern wineries feature wines with kudzu flowers. These offer a distinct fruity, floral bouquet and purple tint. From sweet muscadine wines to dry reds and whites, kudzu blossoms can provide a signature regional twist.

Conclusion

While kudzu might have a bad environmental reputation in the southeastern United States for being uncontrollably invasive, it has a long history as a versatile food source in Asian cuisine. From its starchy tuberous roots to its fragrant blossoms, the entire kudzu plant can lend itself to an array of culinary uses. Whether boiled, baked, or steeped into teas, jellies, and spirits, kudzu has fed people for thousands of years and continues to find new culinary purposes even today.


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