As we came down closer to river on our way to Hudson, we stumble on a hidden valley that is completely taken by Kudzu (Pueraria lobata). It looked like a medium size lake, where instead of water there were expanses of the vine, with the banks made of the same kudzu, supported by what used to be surrounding trees. The vines were growing so thickly, our Husky got all entangled and howled for rescue. If a dog cannot get through this, who can? Goats, without doubt but with some time.
We stood in awe for few moments, looking at such complete take over and noticed many clusters of purple blossoms, that smelled like grapes and flowers in the same time. Jam and wine made from kudzu flowers are renowned in Japan and China, the native countries of this plant.
Young leaves are edible as green vegetables in soup and stews, flexible vine is used for making baskets. Kudzu, a legume, help fixing nitrogen in soil, is a very nutritious forage for cattle- has a 15–18% crude protein content, adding in quality of milk. Among is medicinal uses for humans is helping to conquer alcoholism. The Harvard Medical School is studying kudzu as a possible way to treat alcoholic cravings. In traditional Chinese medicine Kudzu flowers are used to detoxify the liver and alleviate the symptoms of hangover. Kudzu root compounds can affect neurotransmitters including serotonin. The roots contain starch, which has traditionally been used as a food ingredient in East Asia. Roots, flowers, and leaves of Kudzu show antioxidant activity.
It is truly an amazing, yet much underused plant in its new country. Instead, a lot of effort is spend in pouring pesticides made of petro chemicals, yet it takes 9 years to kill a vine of kudzu this way. Simply weed whacking it makes the plant stronger, as it regresses to its roots, waits and re-grows with more new stems. Kudzu spreads mostly by vegetative expansion, via stolons (runners) that root at the nodes to form new plants and by rhizoms.
We harvested about a half- pound of flowers and a pound of baby leafs in about 10 min. We made beef barley soup with kudzu leafs, which has very mild flavor, yet add a lot of nutrients. The flower jam was a completely magical experience. The brilliant purple syrup tasted heavenly- very floral and fragrant with touch of concord grapes. It made me feel beautiful inside, and I do believe it has aphrodisiac properties.
That night I had a dream: a brilliant purple light and there stood a stunningly beautiful woman, all dressed in purple. I only had a glance of her face before she vanished, but I had enough time to capture her personality with every attribute of perfect geisha. Goddess Kudzy have revealed her face to me, I thought, mesmerized and thankful.
Very trippy jam that is.
Kudzu Flower Jam recipe:
1/2 lb flowers, de-poded, rinsed.
2 cups sugar
2 cups water
1 table spoon fruit pectin, if available
Boil for 10-15 min , let cool and enjoy.