Out On The Mudline

Cooking With Kudzu Might Solve Problem

By W. P. Sissell

Several weeks ago we had a call from a niece in South Carolina asking for recipes for using kudzu. Although we had none, we called our Farm Service Office and several days later we received selected parts from “The Book of Kudzu, A Culinary And Healing Guide.” This book is available from the Mid-Mississippi Regional Library System—Attala, Holmes, Leake, Montgomery, and Winston Counties.  

Along with the request, my niece, who is my brother Reuel’s daughter, remarked that kudzu was just taking over their land close to the South Carolina coast (Conway). We sent her a copy of the parts of the book that we received.

The section of the table of contents entitled Cooking with Kudzu starts on page 19 and extends through page 52. Only a minor section of the book covers the use of kudzu as fodder.

A Response

Several days ago I received a response to my pea-vine hay article from Mr. Carroll Crenshaw by mail. Mr. Crenshaw  told about the difficulty of saving hay from kudzu. I received another response from friend Lee Rowsey. He questioned the variety of the peas correctly—they were clay peas.

Those peas were much easier to handle as hay than the kudzu.  To conserve on my wordage I will refer to Carroll and Lee from now on in this article. In Carroll’s response the making of kudzu hay is described in relation to a twenty-three acre field of kudzu on their farm near Velma.

In the late thirties and early forties my father was a member of the Yalobusha County Soil Conservation Commission. The head of the Commission was J. B. Major. There are several things that still exist because of J. B Major. This man tried to make his time in the county worthwhile. I picked up special sod for the football field at South Panola School System a number of years after Mr. Major left us for his next assignment in Hawaii.  

Mr. Major held many “Field Days” throughout the county relating to soil conservation practices. As I read Carroll’s comments I recalled one of those field days that I attended with my father. I remembered the alterations made on the sickle bar of the mower along with the fact that the cut and cured kudzu hay had to be shocked with pitchforks. I knew already that almost all hay had to be carried to the hay mow, or stacked on a special wagon bed powered by mules although mechanical hay loaders were available. Carroll described the baling of the hay with a mule baler.  That is beyond my recollection for we used a power driven (tractor and belt powered) baler and tried to hold our bale weight to about seventy pounds. Getting the kudzu hay to the baler would have been an impossibility, for we used a tractor with a buck-rake to bring hay to the baler. The tines of that buck-rake would have hung in the mat of kudzu vines and roots covering the ground.

My father and I agreed that we should stick with our pea-vine, soybean (cut at first bloom—at this stage the quality is very close to alfalfa) and Kobe lespedeza (this one produces well on our commonly acid soil and is very easily handled with today’s round and/or square balers). Morrison’s “Feeds and Feeding” still lists the protein and total digestible nutrient content of kudzu hay as equal to or better than alfalfa.  The drawbacks in the saving of kudzu hay may make it prohibitively expensive but livestock love it. Carroll quotes his father as saying a mule would quit eating corn to eat kudzu hay.  

One of my neighbors controlled (kept kudzu off his property) by making a weekly trip over his small acreage and spraying any found with a chemical. One sure but possibly more expensive way to keep kudzu away is by fencing and allowing cows to graze it. The cows will do almost like Carroll’s father’s mule—leave the grass for the kudzu.

Our wish for you is a great week. We’ll continue with more on the qualities of the kudzu plant. You can reach me most of the time at 23541 Highway 6, Batesville, MS 38606 or 662-569-9879.

Leave a Comment