A large, trifoliate-leaved, semi-woody, trailing or climbing perennial vine of the legume family. The vines grow up to 60 feet in a single season and as much as 1 foot in a day in the early summer. The starchy, tuberous roots can weigh 450 pounds. Kudzu was introduced to the US in 1876 as pasturage and erosion control, but has been a popular food in China and Japan for thousands of years. Kudzu leaves and stems can be cooked like other greens. The roots are dehydrated and pulverized, and this starchy kudzu powder is used to thicken soups and sauces and to dredge foods for deep frying.
Season: available year-round
How to prepare: To thicken a liquid, crush the chunks into a powder, mix them with an equal amount of cold water, then stir the mixture into the hot liquid and simmer for a few minutes until the sauce is thickened.
Substitutions: kudzu powder = arrowroot = cornstarch