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Sunday, May 15, 2005

Kudzu leaves

kudzu tendril
The picture above is of some kudzu leaves. Kudzu is not yet in bloom in upstate South Carolina, but, as you can see from yesterday's post, it is, as usual, thriving. Kudzu is one of the last plants to put forth new growth in the Spring. It is quite sensitive to frost. There will be blooms later. It grows rapidly, and I have never had a student from the Northeast or Midwest who didn't notice the ubiquity of kudzu during the season when it grows, as I did. I am still amazed at it, after four decades of living near it. If unchecked, it covers acres of land, and will cover buildings, trees, and other plants. The name is Japanese, apparently. It grows so well because there are few, or no, natural enemies of kudzu here. It is rare to find insect holes in kudzu leaves.
Woodchucks often live in holes in banks where kudzu is growing.
Kudzu is a member of the legume, or pea family of flowering plants. (Legume is a fancy name for pod.) This family is one of the most important families of plants, because they can fix Nitrogen, thus making it available for use in proteins, nucleic acids, and other essential molecules of living things. Vegetarians generally eat one or more legumes regularly.
Kudzu flowers, leaves and roots are edible (links go to recipes). The kudzu root apparently resembles jicama, or yam bean, root. Jicama (not kudzu) is available in some grocery stores in the area. I have grown to like it over the last year or so. I have yet to eat kudzu. Maybe someday.
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Addendum, January 19, 2006: Over the last few days, our Flickr photo of kudzu, which is the photo above, has experienced some 260 views. If you have been assigned this page for a school assignment, or have assigned it, good (although I'd be pleased to find out, if this is true). If you see any needed improvements, or have suggestions, please comment or contact me otherwise. Thanks.

1 comment:

Christina said...

I almost convinced my mom to buy some jicama at the grocery store tonight. But, unaccustomed to both the root and change, she refused. I will simply buy it myself and slip it in with dinner one night. Then, she will never again pass up the chance to purchase some because it is great!