A Southerner's Revenge on Unloveable Kudzu

Categories: Eat This
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The scourge of kudzu
Southerners rue, curse and unhappily abide kudzu, but few of them ever eat it.

The Internet's awash in recipes for steamed kudzu leaves and powdered kudzu root starch, yet most folks who live where the Japanese vine's transformed once-recognizable landscapes into undulating humps of green would no sooner cook up a mess of kudzu than take their tea unsweetened.

Kudzu's considered -- at best -- a goat snack in the Southeastern United States, where the plant was introduced in the 1930s as a means of erosion control. Barbara Hyman, a Dallas resident who grew up in the central Mississippi town of Lexington, never met anyone who'd sampled it.

But the idea of "kudzu jelly" lodged in her brain a few years back, and she mentioned the concept to her sister Gina. Gina's hairdresser had a recipe, so the women began collecting kudzu blossoms, a chiggery task complicated by the purple blossoms' tendency to clump behind the vine's broad leaves.

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Blossom: not the TV show.
"The best way to find them is to roll down your window on a small road, and you can smell the fragrance of perfumed grape," Hyman says. "You don't see it."

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Washed blossoms
It takes almost a cup of blossoms to make a jar of jelly; Hyman went home with about four cup's worth. She then rinsed the flowers, put them in a pot and poured boiling water over them.

"It turns an ugly, yucky gray, and then you let it sit overnight so it can infuse," Hyman explains.

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