Thursday, June 19, 2014

How to Dehydrate Kudzu for Food Preservation

Kudzu view at Home Depot, a mile from my house!
The Vine That Ate the South!  Kudzu, Pueraria lobata, was originally brought to the United States by the Japanese to be included in an exhibition at the Centennial Fair in Philadelphia in 1876. It is a beautiful, temperature tolerant, fast-growing vine with a lovely flower that smells like grapes. So it is no wonder that it became an instant hit.  Even our government planted it all over the South to help prevent erosion.  By 1946 over 3 million acres had been planted. It wasn't until the 1950's that they realized it was a problem. Unfortunately, due to no natural adversaries and a climate that it just loves in the South, it has expanded to over 7 million acres today.  It is hard to kill, and it will kill the vegetation that it covers.  Weed killer solutions just makes it grow more.  It has been suggested that it would be one of the few plants to survive a nuclear blast as the roots go very deep!

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.

Directions:

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.

Dehydrated Kudzu.
Once completely dehydrated, remove any hard stems and gather a bunch of leaves together by placing them on one another.


Gathered Kudzu leaves
Roll them together.  Using clean scissors, cut small pieces off and into a bowl.  Keep cutting until desired size.  Just crumbling with your hands will not work due to the nature of the leaf.

Cutting the dried Kudzu.

The cut Kudzu.
Store in an airtight container out of direct sunlight.


Canned dehydrated Kudzu.
Add to soups, stews or further grind for breads.  Because of its very mild taste, chances are you will not even taste it in most recipes but you can enjoy the added green and nutrition.

A handful of Kudzu added to chili.

Chili after mixing in the Kudzu, barely noticeable and does not change the flavor.

3 comments:

  1. I was very impressed by this article, I can think of so many uses for this plant now, why is it not just harvested like crazy. I want some to try, but live in California. Wish I could post this on facebook for my friends to read.

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  2. Great idea! I'm going to try this soon.

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  3. Interesting. Another new learning I have found here. I've been doing tropical preservation and I haven't tried dehydrating kudzu. May I know in which kind of recipe did you include dried kudzu? I'll try this on weekend. Cheers!

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