The Confused Environmentalist

All Hail Kudzu?
by Jennifer Weiss -- September 25th, 2012

Kudzu. Just the mere mention of the word here in North Carolina brings tears to the eyes of many landowners and causes headaches for many environmentalists. In the U.S., kudzu is referred to as an invasive species – a fast growing, climbing vine that completely overtakes other plants, trees, even houses.  As kudzu grows, it blocks out light for the native plants, which as you can imagine can be quite detrimental to their livelihood. And once kudzu takes over, it is very hard to get rid of, if you can get rid of it at all. To many, Kudzu is an alien form of plant life that should be avoided at all costs.

But, wait a minute. What if kudzu isn’t all bad?  What if it is just a misunderstood piece of vegetation that, by no fault of its own, just happened to get mixed up in urban American life? What if it actually has a purpose and could, in its own way, help fight some of the evils of the world?  Well, that would be something, wouldn’t it?

Last week, I was looking through a cookbook and my eyes fell on the words kudzu root powder. At first I thought I had read it wrong. Or perhaps it was a typo.  But upon closer examination, I verified that the recipe did indeed call for kudzu powder as a thickener (instead of corn starch) and the notes section even went so far as to say that kudzu is a “phenomenal anticancer plant.” Wait … what?!?

After a little research and a trip to my local Whole Foods store, I learned that kudzu might not be the enemy after all.  While I haven’t found any sound evidence that kudzu is our next cancer-fighting miracle treatment, there are at least some proponents who suggest that kudzu powder can be used for certain liver diseases and can help fight alcoholism. At the very least, it can be made into baskets.

All of this has caused me to stop and think. We are told as young children to always look for the good in others. To “find the silver lining.”  This is not always as easy as it seems, especially with the human species. However with plants, especially plants that we find invasive or considered “weeds,” we are more often than not trying to figure out how to rid our world of them. Perhaps, instead, we should be trying to figure out how to find the good in them and use them more to our advantage.

1 Comment

  1. Tawnee
    Sep 26, 2012

    Very interesting post, Jen! It’s always nice to discover that invasive species can actually be useful.

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