Kudzu is a plant in the pea family that originated in southern Japan and southeastern China. Like the humble molasses syrup, it can be used in a wide variety of end products. For example, it is used for soil improvement and preservation, animal feed, medicine, starch, soaps, lotions, jelly and compost.
Kudzu was introduced from Japan into the United States in 1876 at the Philadelphia Centennial Exposition, where it was promoted as a forage crop and an ornamental plant.
From 1935 to the early 1950s, the Soil Conservation Service encouraged farmers in the Southeastern United States to plant kudzu to reduce soil erosion. The Civilian Conservation Corps planted it widely for many years.
It was subsequently discovered that the Southeastern US has near-perfect conditions for kudzu to grow out of control — hot, humid summers, frequent rainfall, temperate winters with few hard freezes (kudzu cannot tolerate low freezing temperatures that bring the frost line down through its entire root system, a rare occurrence in this region), and no natural predators. As such, the once-promoted plant was named a pest weed by the United States Department of Agriculture in 1953.
To a certain extent, the conditions that are ideal for growing Kudzu (warm and moist places) are also conditions that are ideal for the making of bread, which brings me to the tale of the great kudzu bread.
One of the books that I received for Christmas was “Best-Ever 400 Budget Recipes”, a book that was first published in London in 2007.
Since I’m very fond of fresh baked bread, the first recipe that I decided to make was Rye Sourdough Bread, which I started just before the end of the year.
If you’ve ever baked bread, you know that it’s a very time consuming, and labor-intensive, process.
The creation of the Rye Sourdough bread actually involves four different steps over a three day time period:
(1) creation of the starter
(2) creation of the sponge
(3) adding the flour to the starter and the sponge
(4) baking the bread
On the morning of January 1, I finished step 3, and neatly placed the completed product into 5 separate bread tins.
Because I had to go in to work, I wasn’t able to complete the process, so I asked Sharon to bake the bread when she got back from the airport.
By the time she got home, the bread mixture, just like kudzu, had spread all over the kitchen table. In desperation, she scooped it all together, and wound up putting into one VERY LARGE pile, and one MEDIUM pile.
The end result can be seen below:
Truth be told, the final product is DELICIOUS, but it DOES have a fairly strange appearance.
I’ll definitely bake more bread in the future, but for the next attempt, I’ll be sure to be a little more mindful of the time.