I was raised in the shadows of Burleson Mountain, nestled in the cliffs above my childhood home were small caves, these and the surrounding woods were my playground.
There is a rich foliage that grows in abundance covering rocks, fences, and anything that gets in its way. It does not climb trees, but it does climb telephone poles. This smothering vine has no special appeal. It covered the face of the caves creating a curtain to close away the world that I lived in. Southerners believed it to be nothing but a nuisance.
Visitors who traveled the back road were in awe as to how the vine survived, they thought it to be worthless, but you can eat it. The leaves, vine tips, flowers, and roots are edible; the vines are not; the old southerners chopped kudzu leaves raw in salad or cook them like spinach leaves. You can cook kudzu roots like potatoes, or dry them and grind them into powder. Kudzu root powder as a breading for fried foods or a thickener for gravy.
How do I know this… between winter and summer garden greens my mother would cook the leaves and root together with a piece of “fat back”, that and a pan of cornbread would fill our hungry belly’s.
Yet it also added a certain beauty to the tarpaper shacks that speckled the countryside. People who live among the vines have made their peace with this dark green neighbor, they understand its need to cover up the abandon shacks and the art it creates with what nature provided. It is deep-rooted in the south’s history, when you think of Kudzu…you think of Dixie Land.
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