There are these lush green vines that I have seen from many pictures and movies coming from the southeastern United States. They even have pretty purple flowers too. The plants are usually seen growing endlessly along highways and forests. What is the name of this interesting plant? It is kudzu ( scientific name: pueraria lobata), a Japanese native plant that has been labeled as “invasive” and is taking over the native plants of the area.
Purdue University’s Photo of the nice kudzu with pretty purple flowers.
The plant first came to the US as an ornamental plant in 1876 at the Philadelphia Centennial Exposition. Then in 1935 to 1953, farmers in the South were encouraged by the United States to plant kudzu to reduce soil erosion. But in was declared as invasive by the US government by the mid 1950’s. The southeastern US has hot, humid summers, frequent rainfall, temperate winters and few hard freezes. So the conditions are almost perfect for the kudzus to keep on growing. In some ways, the plant reminds me of the end of the world when the vines start to take over cities and towns.
Michael Jon Jensen, Director of Publishing Technologies of the National Academies Press took this picture of kudzus taking over this abandoned Honda Civic. Looks like it is just in the edge of town too. Watch out!
But in Japan, they love to eat kudzu. Kudzu is high in fiber and protein and is a good source of vitamin A and D. The leaves and stems can be used as in salads and cook like other leafy vegetables. The roots are dried and then grounded to make powder. Kudzu powder is used in cooking to thicken soups and sauces. The flour is also used to coat food to be deep fried, such as tempura.