|Kudzu view at Home Depot, a mile from my house!|
If you can't beat it, you might as well eat it! Everything but the seeds on this plant are edible. It rarely seeds as it generally spreads by vines. It can grow a foot in a day! The Japanese call it Kuzu and have eaten it for centuries. The roots can be used as a starch, the leaves eaten as greens, and the flower makes an excellent jelly. It is in the legume family and tastes like green beans. It is very mild.
Nutritionally it is a powerhouse! It has been used in the past to treat cardiovascular disease and alcoholism. Recent studies also suggest that it may improve insulin resistance. While I am not a doctor of medicine, for the past year I have been adding it to our soups and stews on a regular basis. My husband is a type 2 diabetic, controlled by diet and exercise. His numbers have dropped and nothing else has changed except for the inclusion of more wild food in our diet. I can not tell you that this is the reason why for sure, but you may want to try an experiment yourself if it is an issue for you. If nothing else, you can benefit from the numerous phytochemicals, which are potent anti-oxidants, found in the plant. Specifically, the phytochemicals quercetin which is an anti-inflammatory and anti-histamine, and genistein which is a free-radical scavenger. Other important phytochemicals found are the isoflavone compounds, daidzin, daidzein, tectorigenin and puerarin. Isoflavones have been used in health benefits too numerious to list. The leaves contain a high level of vitamin A and C as well as calcium and protein.
What is the best way to eat it? The flowers make fantastic jelly. While the leaves are beautiful, they can be a little tough and stringy to eat raw. I do slice them up and add them to bones to make broth for the added nutrition, but those are removed before canning the broth. I prefer to dehydrate and add to my dishes a little at a time. In that form they are no longer tough or stringy.
Pick your leaves (be sure they have not been sprayed with chemicals), rinse and add to dehydrator (or put on a mesh pan and leave in your car on a hot day). My dehydrator is an old Ronco which only has an off and an on. I place them in it in the morning and by evening they are dehydrated and crispy. To be sure that they are completely dry, I set them on my counter or table for a few days in a bowl.
|Starting the dehydrating process.|
|Gathered Kudzu leaves|
|Cutting the dried Kudzu.|
|The cut Kudzu.|
|Canned dehydrated Kudzu.|
|A handful of Kudzu added to chili.|
|Chili after mixing in the Kudzu, barely noticeable and does not change the flavor.|