How to make “the vine that ate the South” into a healthy drink
Kudzu aka Wild Arrowroot is a plant native to Southern Japan and Southeast China. Americans first saw kudzu up close in 1876 at a Japanese Exposition in Philadelphia. However, that is not what caused it to become the terror of the American South.
During the 1950’s, the US government encouraged Southerners to plant kudzu all over the place to prevent soil erosion. This simple plant became a voracious weed that conquers anyplace it touches. Southerners call it “the vine that ate the South.” I’ve also heard people call it “the vegetable form of cancer.”
There’s an old saying, “If you can’t beat them, join them.” That can be expanded to say, “If you can’t eradicate it, eat it.”Many farmers in the American South already use it as a food source for livestock and it’s good for humans, too, if you know what you’re doing.
If you have some wild kudzu growing in your backyard, here’s a simple recipe for wild arrowroot tea, called chik cha (칡차) in Korean.
To make it from scratch, boil 30 grams of arrowroot in 3 cups of water on low heat for at least 40 minutes. Then remove the root, add one spoon of your favorite honey. Drink. The honey is necessary because the root is very bitter. Or, if you live in an area where wild arrowroot is unavailable, you can buy chik cha online at KOAmart.
Koreans have used the roots of the kudzu plant for centuries for medicinal purposes. In traditional Chinese medicine, the leaves are used to treat tinnitus and vertigo, which might also work well for those who suffer from Meniere’s Disease. Scientists are also looking into kudzu as a possible treatment for alcoholism, migraines and cluster headaches. Some scientists believe it may become a good source of biofuel or ethanol.
I asked my local Korean grocer why he doesn’t sell chik cha in his store. He said that second-generation Korean-Americans don’t like it because it’s “too bitter.” Well, most foods that are considered medicinal are bitter.