Alien Invasion WE are under attack.

I first spotted them hiding in the shrubs behind the house as I was watering a few new plants. Asian invaders had sprung out of the ground, coiled themselves around various large branches of the shrubs and hoisted themselves outward, reaching for the next shrub and upward, somehow even grabbing on to the lower branches of a large nearby tree.

It was the dreaded beast from the East: Kudzu, a Japanese import, has become an invasive spreading vine throughout the Southeast and as far north as Canada and, yes, Massachusetts. Once it gets a toehold it can rapidly overwhelm other plants and trees, eventually killing them by depriving them of light. I recall driving along the Saw Mill River Parkway in NY and seeing how some crawling, creeping, climbing thing had enveloped virtually everything in its path, as in the photo above. It wouldn't take much of an imagination to turn it into the makings of a horror movie. Yep, Kudzu.

Kudzu has a vigor and growth rate that almost defies belief. Which is why some people returning to their vacation home after a year or two absence have been shocked to find it hidden under a smothering green blanket.

Okay, sure, this is an abandoned home. But, the question is, was it abandoned before the Kudzu attacked? Or after?

According to its official history, Kudzu was introduced at the Philadelphia Continental Exposition in the 1870s as an ornamental bush. Later, it was promoted by some so-called experts in the 1930s and 40s as a way for farmers to control soil erosion and increase nitrogen in the soil. It did all that, but at the time no one bothered to consider the downside.

Now where the heck did I park that dang truck?

Apparently, Kudzu is edible. I suppose if you enjoy Kale you might love it. Maybe some vegetarian entrepreneur will step forward and begin promoting it as the alternative to overpriced Kale. Anything is possible. One fellow here on the Cape managed to build a huge business selling a product even more unlikely than Kudzu: Skunk Oil. But I'm not aware of any restauranteur including either on their menu. Not yet. So far, the only creatures who actually eat Kudzu are livestock, goats especially. And we all know the kind of picky eaters goats can be.

While Kale has its cult following, Kudzu has not yet been taken to heart by the health food people or the local food movement here in the US. I can't imagine why. It's green, edible (or so I've read), is a member of the legume family like peanuts and beans, can be used as a thickener in soups and sauces (like cornstarch), and the flowers can be used to make a jelly that tastes like grape jelly. The Welch's people are probably working on that right now.

Kudzu also has antioxidant qualities and is used to make herbal teas and other miraculous cure-alls in its native Asia. For all I know they probably also smoke it.

Some people will smoke just about anything. Why not Kudzu?

Now you'd think Meryl and I would be thankful that Kudzu is so bountiful here in its new home: our yard. That we would look forward to this year's crop, eager to harvest those little flowers and start the kettles a'boiling so we could turn them into something that approximates grape jelly, putting it up in jars to gift to friends, our neighbors, the mail carrier, the building inspector, passersby. But you'd be wrong.

We're not planning to harvest our little mother lode of Kudzu; We're planning to eradicate it, every last root and tendril. We're not alone. Each year here on the Cape teams of people—volunteers all—form up to spend a day or a weekend uprooting and eradicating all the Kudzu they can spot.

Kudzu has done one good thing for the local economy though. It's created a source of income for folks who own goats. They now rent them out to clear stands of Kudzu—and just about anything else that grows here, including poison ivy—for homeowners who have found their property invaded by uninvited guests. Houseguests are another matter entirely.

Mmmmm. I detect a strong fruity essence, like grape, with just a hint of kale and, yes, wet Bulldog.



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