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Kudzu, ‘the vine that ate the South’ (2)

THE vine has completely dominated Georgia, USA, and has reached the north shore of Lake Erie, positioning itself near Leamington, Ontario, Canada. Known in the United States as “the vine that ate the South”, it continued to reach for world domination. In the 1930s and 1940s the US government subsidized farmers to plant an estimated three million acres of Kudzu to help combat soil erosion from poor farming practices. By the early 1950s, however, the Soil Conservation Service was quietly back-pedaling on its big kudzu push. In the 1990s, it was placed on the Federal Noxious Weed List.

Kudzu is a group of plants that are climbing, coiling, and trailing perennial vines. Its fragrant prodigious lavender blooms yield a deep purple honey. Kudzu is a high protein food not only for animals but humans too. The leaves, young shoots, roots, flowers, and vine tips are all edible either raw or cooked. It is amazing mulch – it gives nitrogen back to the soil and increases the fertility of the lands.

Even with all the great uses and benefits of Kudzu, it has become a very serious problem in other countries, too. In Vanuatu and Fiji, Kudzu was introduced by US Armed Forces to serve as camouflage for equipment during World War II.

Tolerant to both drought and frost, its hardiness allows it to remain dominant and out-compete native species in the process. Controlling this widespread invader isn’t easy. To successfully control Kudzu, its extensive root system must be completely eradicated by cutting vines just above the ground and mowing every month for two growing seasons – all cut material must be destroyed.

In China, Kudzu has been used as a food for more than 2,000 years. In Japan, Kudzu has been praised in poetry and considered a healthy food and ideal thickener for over 1,000 years. (Floro Mercene)