Invasives – Potluck Kudzu
“It seemed to be a good idea at the time.” That would be a fitting title for a book on invasive species. I’m Jim Metzner and this is the Pulse of the Planet. Jacob Barney is an Associate Professor of Invasive Plant Ecology at Virginia Tech. He says that whether an invasive species is considered useful or not depends upon your point of view. Take a plant like the Kudzu vine for example, starting with the bad news first.
Barney: Kudzu was planted widely, subsized by the government to stabilize soils. And also as a forage crop. All the characteristics that made it a good soil stabilizer, turns out, allowed it to escape and do quite well at roadsides and is now one of the most common invasive plants in the south. It’s affectionately known as the vine that ate the south. It’s continuing to spread. And it’s moving north. Now we’re beginning to find it to be a problem in Pennsylvania and the more northern latitudes where we previously never saw it.
One of the things that’s been recently discovered about Kudzu — some scientists found out that the large tap root of Kudzu actually serves as a really nice feed stock for ethanol production. Kudzu is a forage. Animals can eat it. Livestock eat it.
And apparently, so can we.
Barney: In my course, the last lab of the year we have an invasive species potluck, where every student brings in a dish made with at least one invasive species. Last semester I did have a student who used the starch from the kudzu taproot in her fried tofu dish.
Female Student: Kudzu mochi. It’s made by putting a starch made out of kudzu roots, and boiling it with water until it’s thickened. That creates a very stiff jello-like thing. Traditionally, you put a roasted soy bean flour and brown sugar on top.
Barney: One person’s invasive is another person’s tasty delicacy.
I’m Jim Metzner and this is the Pulse of the Planet.