Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Kudzu and you

Back in the 1930s, the US Dept of Agriculture urged farmers to plant Asian plant kudzu to combat erosion. With no natural enemies or diseases, kudzu promptly blanketed seven million acres of the US Southeast, strangling vegetation along the way.

Kudzu has impressive numbers: 30 vines may grow from a single root crown. Its roots can weigh up to 400 pounds, reach 7 inches in diameter, and grow 10 feet deep. Kudzu vines can grow as much as 18 inches in one day and 55 feet in a year. No surprise a horror movie was made called Kurse of the Kudzu Kreature.

But between chefs and scientists, there may be a win-win solution.
Known as the “plant that ate the south,” kudzu is now being eaten by the fiercest of enemies: people. Atlantan chef Ryan Cobb fried, boiled, and stuffed kudzu to the delight of a Travel Channel cable show audience.

Scientists found that kudzu root extract eliminates most of the rise in blood pressure from high-salt diets – at least in rats – and that kudzu may mitigate cognitive loss, hypertension, and insulin resistance to the benefit of diabetes sufferers and menopausal women.

In the 1970s, the Dept of Agriculture changed its mind and called kudzu a noxious weed. Now things are coming full circle just as Kudzu spreads as far north as New Jersey. Maybe the new catch phrase should be "Kudzu and you: perfect together."

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