Friday, July 10, 2015

Redesigning Our Future - Kudzu In the Kitchen

By Kayla Blackburn

Gavin McQueen from Asheboro, NC wears a vine of kudzu as he researches about invasive species.

Here at the 2015 Redesigning Our Future: National Environmental Summit for High School Students, the Invasive Aliens Plants and Animals: Friend or Foe to the Environment? focus group collected and then cooked the well-known invasive plant called kudzu.

After prepping the kudzu in a batter, students deep-fried the plant to create an interesting treat, called a "kudzu funnel cake" by Grace Vaughan from Fries, Virginia. They also made tea and a kudzu quiche!

Samantha Long from Rocky Point, NC dips kudzu leaves in a mixture of flower and water to prepare the plant for deep-frying.

The finished product, deep-fried kudzu!
So how else is this Asian-native plant used around the world?

Kudzu roots contain starch, which are traditionally treated with pomelo oil and used in beverages in Vietnam. In Japan, the starch is used as a thickener and can also be a substitute for the common kitchen ingredient, cornstarch.

Kudzu powder is used all around eastern Asia to make teas, and flowers that appear on certain strands of kudzu are used to make a sweet jelly that has a flavoring very similar to grape.

Kudzu hay is used worldwide as forage for grazing animals. It can also be used to make clothing and paper in the form of a fiber known as ko-hemp.

In the southern United States, this abundant plant is harvested and made into soaps and lotions too. Basketry and medicine are two other fields where the use of kudzu is common.

Of course the invasive kudzu plant can become ecologically damaging due to its quick, overtaking and thus competitive growth, but it is also a truly valuable resource internationally, even for food consumption!

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