Cooking with Kudzu

Make the best of this invasive vine by using its fragrant flower clusters in brightly colored treats.

Kudzu blossoms can be foraged in most Southeastern states. Photo by Adobe Stock/Gorosuke

A sweet, intoxicating scent wafts on the late-summer breeze as I make my way to the house after doing chores at the barn. It makes me pause, breathe deeply, and smile. This special aroma heralds the arrival of kudzu blossom season!

Kudzu is the common name for Pueraria montana, an invasive vine with thick, tough stems and hairy leaves. It has a habit of being a little too familiar to some folks in the southern United States, where it’s classed as a noxious plant. Originally introduced to this country from Japan to curb soil erosion, kudzu has since been classified as an invasive species. Once it’s established, this nonnative green machine can easily engulf entire trees and turn picturesque hillsides into forbidding jungles.

Widely planted in the Southeast during the first half of the 20th century, kudzu was also utilized as an ornamental and forage crop. Cows and goats love it and will eat as much of the nutritious, hardy foliage as they can reach. Kudzu was even planted to bale for hay at one time. Those must’ve been some tough balers! Kudzu made itself right at home here and has spread extensively, despite official efforts to control it.

On days when kudzu is in bloom, though, I have a special reason to be at peace with the fact that the fencerow in our side yard is covered with the vine. Even this small patch on my property will produce a profusion of striking purple blossoms during the bloom window, which is July through September in my part of Alabama.

I’m eager to bring kudzu blossoms into my kitchen. Even though these blooms have an amazing fragrance, they’re a bit delicate as a cut flower. But when harvested, washed, and prepared, the blossoms lend a luscious flavor to homemade treats. 

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