In addition to all the brilliant greens of spring, kudzu is undoubtedly one of the most abundant plants. It is commonly found throughout WNC, and it is the South’s most well-known invasive species.
Groups such as Kudzu Warriors, based in Western North Carolina, work to combat the invasive vine because it is detrimental to biodiversity and contributes to ozone layer pollution.
Additionally, the vine has long been used for various culinary + medicinal purposes by locals. Kudzu Culture, a local nonprofit, teaches people how to harvest and employ kudzu in art, cooking, textiles, and holistic medicine. Mountain Xpress reports that some people in the area use kudzu to make maple hickory-nut kudzu pudding + kudzu matcha mochi (a firm rice cake with matcha green tea).
We can personally vouch for Shanti Elixir’s Kudzu Dandelion Jun Tea as a local product. It is also known for its culinary and medicinal benefits. Edith Edwards, the ‘Kudzu Queen’ of North Carolina, makes her own kudzu jelly, baskets, and other vine-based products.
However, how did it arrive? Here’s a little background on how this invasive species got here.
In the late 1800s, kudzu was introduced to the United States as a source of livestock feed and a method to control soil erosion. By the 1940s and 1950s, the government encouraged farmers to plant it to control erosion. It became famous as a shade plant. By 1945, it covered an estimated 500,000 acres in the Southeast.
Sadly, farmers discovered that the vine quickly covered trees + farmsteads, resulting in native plant species being smothered and killed. By 1953, the USDA had removed it from the list of acceptable cover crops, and people launched eradication programs in frustration. Congress officially listed the vine under the Federal Noxious Weed Act in 1998.
More reads: Gardening Advice for Beginners
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