Kudzu: The Vine that Ate the South.

I had a lot of fun talking to my neighbors and friends today, sharing summer recipes from the bounty of our gardens.

Kudzu came up, as it always does, because here in the South, it’s usually a question of eradicating it from  our fences and  creeping into our back yards.

I have tried a couple of things culinary with kudzu over the years, some recipes my family remembers and hopes I don’t.  One of them was using kudzu leaves instead of grape leaves or cabbage for stuffed cabbage rolls.  I think it would work out better if I had parboiled the leaves first and had picked TENDER leaves, not the biggest I could find.

Kudzu comes from Japan where it is widely used in both culinary and medicinal ways.  The root is boiled and dried, and it’s a starch that is eaten in recipes, used like arrowroot.  The leaves are juiced and boiled for a tea (haven’t tried this yet) and of course the flowers are a wonderful and clear, purple jelly.  It’s a delicate jelly, a bit like rose jelly, but even better.  If you like the smell of wisteria and the color, you will like kudzu flowers. If you like grape jelly, you will like kudzu jelly.  You have to search for them, because they grow near the top of where they flop over a fence or tree, or somewhere sometimes high and inconvenient, and they are covered over by the big leaves, but they are very much worth the gathering.

Kudzu vines are excellent for making baskets.  They are just like grape vines, but greener.  I confess that I have tried to make vine baskets years ago and failed miserably.  It’s a art form for a reason. Although, when I moved to the South many years ago, women still made baskets from kudzu.  They were used as storage containers in the kitchens and especially the cellars.  I haven’t seen many of them in the past few years except at craft exhibits.  I had a neighbor, Brin, who was part Cree Indian and could make baskets from pine needles…beautiful and closely woven small baskets.  She also made kudzu baskets.  Alas, Brin moved to Maine a few years ago, but we write back and forth on occasion.

Kudzu is excellent feed for cows, dairy, goats and sheep, but doesn’t take well to trampling.  You can graze goats or sheep for eradication for a while, but kudzu is tenacious:  the roots go down 2 or 3 feet and come the spring, they shoot up again, after being killed by a ‘killing frost’.  They grow over a foot a day, can smother trees in a woods, and cover abandoned cars, etc. fast.

I collect the leaves for my chickens who sometimes eat  when I’m not buying them collards.  They LOVE the sprinkled flowers that they can’t get to because they grow higher than chickens can jump.  I found this out when collecting the flowers in the back two days ago.

Apparently scientists are interested in using kudzu as biofuel.  This would be a great usage because corn biofuels have to be planted, and right now, the South is covered over with potential fuel supply.  We should be thinking going up amongst the greenery instead of down into the earth drilling.

We had a great dinner tonight with fresh French bread, basil pesto and Gazpacho Soup….all from (or mostly) our garden.  Yesterday we made a Tomato Tart.  I’ll post the recipe here, because it is a great summer time meal.  A lettuce salad with olive oil and balsamic vinegar (homemade) made this a good and easy meal.

TOMATO TART

Pastry first.  I make a butter/crisco pastry, but mostly butter.

King Arthur’s Flour, all purpose is best.  I can’t stand the White Lily flour of the south….too fine a flour for my baking.  But it can stand in as a cake flour. (This is for Margie a Northern gal)

2 cups of flour/shortening of your choice/ kosher salt (1/2 teaspoon) some cold water….and I put in Nature’s Season in the dough instead of Kosher salt because it gives a good flavor.  Your choice.

Roll out and line a pie plate.

Crush up and mince two cloves at least!!! of fresh garlic.  rub into the pie crust gently, or just push into the crust.

Cheese:  I use anything I have in the fridge, but a white chedder or camberert is good, any cheese except that orange cheese that is plastic.  You can also sprinkle Parmesan right into the crust.

Tomatoes:  cut into fairly thin slices and line the crust.  Use about 4 large tomatoes, be generous with the tomatoes.

Sprinkle with sugar (to taste because tomatoes can be acid) and bake at 400 degrees for about 25-35 minutes.  You bake at a high temp. so the crust doesn’t become soggy.  This tart is good hot or cold.

Since we have hens, good girls that give me around 4-9 eggs a day…we always have fresh eggs.  I love custard, and make it all the time when we have eggs.  I have made creme brulee before but I don’t usually have the heavy cream.  I do have the milk at hand.  And I don’t necessarily like using the blow torch myself to carmelize the sugar on the top.  My recipe is healthier and it’s good to go in the fridge at midnight and spoon out with fingers.  Gets better as it gets colder.

EGG CUSTARD WITH KUDZU JELLY

6 whole eggs well beaten

1/2 teaspoon of salt

3 cups of whole milk

3/4 cups of sugar

vanilla extract, (or almond)

cinnamon to taste or nutmeg…. your choice.

heat the milk to scaling.  In a ceramic bowl pour very slowly the cooled milk into the egg/sugar/salt/vanilla mixture.  Stir well.  You can strain into a fine strainer to get those eggy bits out but they don’t really bother me.

put into a glass (Pyrex) bowl and set that into a bain marie.  Well, put it in a larger pan of water and full one inch below the custard.

Bake at a low heat (I always bake mine too high and it doesn’ t do as well)  300 or 325 for about 45 minutes.  Let cool in fridge.

For that lovely sugar coating….sprinkle a raw sugar or a brown sugar over the top of the cooled  custard.  Strike up the blow torch and carefully attend to the sugar, staying away from the sides of the bowl.   Be patient.  The sugar will turn to a lovely dark brown, crystallizing and becoming a hard surface.

This custard is best served cold.

Of course, you can ditch the blowtorch and serve with a spoonful of kudzu jelly on top.

Lady Nyo

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2 Responses to “Kudzu: The Vine that Ate the South.”

  1. Margie Says:

    I love this blog – the topics range so far and wide! One day I’m reading about bdsm and the next a recipe for tomato tart! But isn’t that what we, as women, are all about? So many facets to make up one diamond!

    (And I agree about the flour – I always use King Arthur – never even tried to deviate. Although I did switch to Duke’s mayonnaise when we moved here!)

    Like

  2. ladynyo Says:

    ROTF! And I am so glad you do!

    This blog IS eclectic, and I know that it irks some readers…especially those who read for certain (ahem) topics. I have been following the blog stats as to who reads what, and it’s funny: The ones (entries) that got a lot of readers were the D/s interviews, the tentative bdsm ones, the “Power of the Ropes”, Narcissistic Rage, etc.

    Now, I really didn’t set out to pander to the bdsm crowd. It’s not my scene. Although I did express some interest for a while, but ugh.

    I didn’t understand the different between a REAL sadist and a play sadist…and one is very, very dangerous. A real sadist ‘hurts’.. and attempts to destroy…..they get their jollies from this….and as a local Dom said: “Nobody wants to be around a real sadist.”

    They have few friends.

    Good words, but it’s rather hard to tell, because we hope we really aren’t ever in such a presence. And sometimes, a real sadist will cover the inherent nastiness with a bow to consensual behavior, but that is just window dressing.

    Their wiring is very different, very twisted.

    As to the recipes, like tomato tarts!~ LOL!>..Well, you could combine bdsm play with pie throwing???

    I WILL get back to posting chapters (in parts because they are damn longgg) of “Tin Hinan” this week. I am finding that there are people who like these stories and that is good news, because I would rather post chapters than rant at sadists.

    Most of the time….LOL!

    Thanks, Margie…you know it….woman are made up of many facets, as you say. I think that a lot of men don’t like this because they can’t really get a handle on women. It reveals their insecurities. It scares them. They prefer the wind up dolls.

    And about the flour? That wasn’t here in the South until about 5 years ago…at least I couldn’t find it in Atlanta. I had to have it shipped down. Am so glad it’s available now.

    On to more kudzu jelly this morning!

    Hugs,
    Jane

    Like

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