Kudzu, often called the vine that ate the South, is a Chinese and Japanese fodder and cover crop with an edible root.
The original Japanese pronunciation was kuzu.
The Latin name is Pueraria lobata, but it was called Pueraria thunbergiana until 1947.
An American consul in Japan in the late nineteenth century, Thomas Hogg, exported kudzu to the United States, where an excess of its virtues as an erosion-control planting eventually made it into a famous pest.
Its twining vine stems can grow as much as a foot a day and may reach a length of more than sixty feet.
But for decades, county agents and soil conservation scientists enthusiastically recommended kudzu as a ground cover, and it has many other virtues.
It is a very nice pot plant, with sweet-smelling purple flowers.
It was grown as a porch vine, to keep the sun off. Kudzu starch, a fine-grain starch, is extracted from the roots and used in Japanese cooking. It can be made into noodles.
For two thousand years, the Japanese have extracted an anti-fever medicine from it.
Kudzu can also be put up as an excellent hay, though modern haying equipment has a hard time handling the long vines. Its appeal to grazing animals can be used to control it.
Watch What You Put in Your Mouth.