Recently, I have had several inquiries concerning an article I wrote several years ago about the subject of “kudzu.” These persons wanted to know where and when it arrived in the United States, and of what value is this prolific plant. I had to go back through my files of this column, and find that particular article printed on July 11, 1994 in our church newsletter.
I have noticed that in some places kudzu is almost rampant in its growth and coverage of the countryside. Perhaps such prolific growth is a result of our rains during these past weeks, but I think this is a plant that thrives in dry as well as wet weather.
It brings sadness to me to see trees, fences, vacant barns, and houses overgrown by this plant that seems to grow while you watch. Recently a young friend made the comment to me concerning a particular spot overgrown with kudzu…trees, buildings, etc…that reminded them of Disney World! What a positive way to see beauty in the figures formed and created by these covered structures.
Kudzu was brought to the United States in 1876 by the Japanese as a porch blind for the Centennial Exposition held in Philadelphia. In 1934 the Soil Conservation Service promoted its use as a soil erosion deterrent and as a feed for cattle.
A family in Abbeville was quoted not long ago about the kudzu problem they were experiencing around their home. They have kept some exact figures on just how fast a six-acre field of kudzu will grow. They say you start with one acre, 4840 square yards of area. In an old kudzu patch each square yard contains about six kudzu crowns or plants. Each plant has about 20 runners. That’s 120 runners per square yard. Each runner will grow about 18 inches in 24 hours. That comes out to 2,160 inches per square yard. For an acre of kudzu that would be 871,200 feet.
You divide 871,200 by 5,280 (feet in a mile) and the answer is 165 miles per day per acre. If you multiply that by six, then you get 990 miles per day. Divide 990 by 24 hours and it shows a runner growth total of 41.25 miles per hour, 24 hours a day.
I read once that the method of planting kudzu is to dig a hole, drop in a crown or plant, and then run like crazy.
I once preached a sermon on kudzu (as an application to permitting things to go untended or without supervision for too long, it becomes uncontrollable) only to find that the next time I went to that pulpit, someone had placed a large vase of the plant under the pulpit out of view of the congregation but well within my sight. It was hard to keep myself composed knowing what was beneath that pulpit and all the time hoping it did not decide to take root.
In spite of the nuisance that this plant poses to farmers and homeowners, it does have its positive qualities. It is one of the highest plants in protein, even better than beef steak (but just give me a steak, anytime.)
I have done some research in the Clemson University library on this plant and found in the shelves, books on kudzu recipes. They all sounded mouthwatering, but I have yet to be invited by someone to sample a “kudzu casserole.”
I did watch a television program recently on how to prepare “french fried kudzu leaves.” I certainly believe in sharing with my readers the latest culinary delights, and as well as I can remember the televised recipe is: Place fresh, young kudzu leaves in ice water until crisp. Remove from the water, and dip into a prepared batter, then place the battered leaves into a pan of hot cooking oil until fried to the desired golden brown.
Who knows, you may be the one to discover a new “gold-mine”- the untapped energy, food value, of kudzu!”