Tuesday, March 22, 2011

REDUX: The Vine Folks Love to Hate

Since 1965 I have created 1,580 POST FOR Nick’s Bytes. Many of these, I believe, deserve to be brought back and read again. This is my first Nick’s Bytes Redux post. It was originally seen on May 21, 2005. Enjoy!  

I was listening to National Public Radio this morning and heard an amazing story—story so amazing that I must comment on it. It seems that researchers at McLean Hospital in Belmont, Massachusetts, believe that they have found a substance that can reduce a person desire for alcohol. That’s sounds great to me! I had breakfast with a friend a few weeks ago and her breakfast consisted of a beer and four shots of some whiskey, the name of which I can’t recall and really don’t want to recall. I was shocked at her choice of breakfast food, especially since the last time I saw her she didn’t drink at all. If the researchers have developed something to reduce her alcohol consumption I’ll endorse it to everyone I meet.

The kicker is that this miracle drug is an extract made from kudzu! Kudzu! That worthless weed that has been strangling the South for almost 130 years! Could kudzu really be of some value?

As I understand the history/legend of Kudzu, it was introduced to the United States in 1876 at the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, by the Japanese government. To celebrate the 100th birthday of the United States, nations from around the world were invited to construct displays at the Centennial Exposition. The government of Japan created a stunning garden filled with plants native to their land. One of these plants was kudzu and its outsized leaves and fragrant blooms captured the imagination of American gardeners. Many added kudzu as an ornamental to their gardens.

During the Depression years, the Soil Conservation Service encouraged the planting of kudzu as a means of controlling soil erosion. Through the Civilian Conservation Corps, men were employed planting kudzu throughout the South and farmers were paid an incentive of as much as $8.00 an acre as to cultivate it.

The hitch was that the climate of the Southeast ideal for growing kudzu. During summer the vines can grow as much as a foot a day: they climb trees, telephone poles, and anything else with which they come in contact, including car and, if Rip Van Winkle were sleeping there, even people. Under these idyllic conditions, kudzu vines were growing as much as sixty feet each year.
From fragrant oriental, Kudzu became a real pest, potentially taking over the entire Southeast. And the land was being submerged by it!

I first heard about kudzu from jokes. For example, Jeff Foxworthy: “You might be a redneck if you've ever lost a loved one to kudzu.” There was also a comic strip entitled “Kudzu” and featuring the preacher, Will B. DunnPreacher, the wit and wisdom of Reverend Will B. Dunn. I remember identifying with Brother Dunn when he stood in the pulpit and said something like, “Some preachers warm up their congregations for the sermon with a prayer or a joke. Me, I just throw ‘em some raw, red meat.”

I truly hope that kudzu can be used to treat this very troubling addiction!


  1. Kudzu, with a strong vinegrete, makes a fair salad.

  2. In my research for this post I found that kudzu is considered to be a gastronomy delight by many. Not only are the leaves eaten, but also the roots. There are cookbooks dedicated to the weed, so perhaps I should stop calling it a “weed?”

  3. That would be great if they could use kudzu to treat alcoholism!