Kudzu (known in some parts of the United States and most other countries as Japanese Arrowroot) is a group of plants from the pea family that are native to parts of Asia. Much like the common pea plant, it climbs and coils as it grows. Unlike the common pea plant it climbs and grows and coils like a pea plant from some monster sci-fi show.
If you are not from the US south, you may have never heard of kudzu. If you are from the US south you may wish you had never heard of kudzu. We remember kudzu as a tripper of children; a ripper of socks; a lowly plant but a highly effective hurdle in the path of life – in other words, a real nuisance. And, for many people, it still is. It can easily overtake a 100 acre farm in just a few years if left to its own growth tendencies. The plants can grow over trees, houses, telephone poles – nothing is too big a challenge for its growth abilities. According to Science Daily, it is currently estimated to be growing at a rate of 150,000 acres per year in the US.
That being said, kudzu is also a great plant in its own right. Just a few of its positive traits are :
- It can be used as an effective soil erosion control
- Grazing animals find it palatable and it is of high nutritional quality for them
- It increases the nitrogen in the soil where it grows
- You don’t need to plant it, fertilize it, or tend it (just throw some seeds out in the back pasture)
- Its deep taproot system transfers deep minerals to the top soil
- Hay made from kudzu has up to 18% crude protein and at least 60% total digestible nutritive value
- Its fiber can be used for art and clothes (much like hemp) and paper
- It can be used for several medicinal purposes
- Kudzu can be used in food and drinks
- It can be used as fuel, both in “raw” form or processed for the ethanol
You might want to consider growing kudzu, and using it as fuel during its ‘dead’ season – or use it in one of the other uses listed above. It’s a bit of a commitment to plant it – so choose wisely my friend.