We recently sat down with Josephine McRobbie, a reported with Earth Eats, a show on the NPR syndicate Indiana Public Media. Here’s the link to the episode.
This year, we did our 8th annual Kudzu Root Camp a little differently. Instead of including an educational workshop in with the harvesting, processing, and celebrating of kudzu, we focused on research and development of our processes, mechanizing some steps and quantifying inputs and yields. And develop the processes we did! We were able to clean, shred, and rinse the starches out of the roots all using cheap and widely available electric tools. We’ll report back soon in more detail and share some photos.
Besides making leaps and bounds in our efficiency, we also got a better sense of the commercial viability of a variety of kudzu products we’ve been working with, and a sense of the potential. We measures out a 150 sq. ft. area and tracked the root yield from this section of the patch: it came out to about 300lbs of roots. That’s 2 lbs per square foot!
You can find some photos and follow a bit of what we’re up to on our Instagram: @kudzuco_op
Our newly forming Kudzu Collective and Local Cloth are excited to facilitate a workshop that explores the ancient processes of harvesting, cooking, retting, and rinsing kudzu vine fiber. This lustrous, dynamic fiber has been used for thousands of years in various parts of Asia to make rope, cloth, and paper. Kudzu is so abundant in our bioregion, and the Kudzu Collective is committed to promoting this culture of use. Join us in exploring the vast story kudzu has to tell us, and bring your ideas of how its fibers can be used for fiber art!
Instructors Justin Holt, Zev Friedman, and Lauren Bacchus, along with kudzu co-conspirators, will guide workshop participants in hands-on kudzu vine processing throughout the morning. We will begin the day harvesting in a nearby urban kudzu patch, and then work together to rinse already retted fiber (retted means “rotted,” so prepare for a stink!). Wear clothes that you don’t mind getting wet and a little messy.
During lunchtime we will hear the story of kudzu, an intriguing tale of many layers, and introduce the group to the culinary and medicinal benefits of kudzu root starch, another valuable co-product of this useful plant. Participants will also get to try samples of dishes crafted with our own, locally made kudzu starch!
Throughout the afternoon, we will then work with processed kudzu fibers to explore how the material responds to various manipulations. Pre-processed fibers will be provided for participants to make a woven bookmark or bracelet on a d.i.y. cardboard loom. Feel free to bring a small loom or other spinning and weaving equipment to experiment with. Additional pre-processed fibers will be available for purchase.
Don’t miss this unique workshop that encompasses ecology, sustainability, anthropology, fiber art, and so much more!
Date: Saturday, July 21
Hours: 9am – 6pm (lunch and Story of Kudzu 12:30 – 2pm)
Instructions for Participants: Please pack a lunch, bring clothes that can get a little wet and messy, hand pruners if you have them, gloves, hat/sunscreen/water bottle. Tea, coffee, and light snacks will be provided.
Over the course of Kudzu Root Camp, we had 27 people come through and dig, clean, chop, pound, rinse, learn about, marvel at, admire, cook and eat kudzu. We dug about 315 lbs from about 1000 square feet of earth.
I’m feeling deep rooted gratitude for everyone who joined us, pitched in, and helped pull together another successful gathering, and also for kudzu, who every year draws me deeper into love with the mystery and power of the plant world.
We hope to give a more in-depth report from the patch. For now, here are some photos of the fun.
Zev, Justin, and Avram discuss our mutual friend kudzu during an expansive, sprawling, vining conversation on Mountain Steam TV:
Locally-harvested, fresh Kudzu Root (Ge-Gen) available to herbalists in late winter 2018
Kudzu, the ‘vine that ate the South’, formerly known as the ‘miracle vine’ that saved that same region’s rapidly eroding slopes after a century of deforestation and intensive annual agriculture, is truly a multi-faceted plant. The entire plant offers itself to human use: from its rapidly growing, succulent tips down to its deep, bulbous, starchy roots, kudzu can be harvested for food, fiber, medicine, fodder, and fuel.
In its native Asia, kudzu has been put to use for many centuries, particularly in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). The root is known to practitioners of TCM as Ge-Gen and is used to treat fever, thirst, headache, pain due to high blood pressure, allergies, migraines, diarrhea, alcoholism, and angina (www.uofmhealth.org).
Active constituents of kudzu include daidzin, daidzein, puerarin, genistin, genistein, tectorigenin, glycitin, tectoridin, 6″-O-xylosyltectoridin, 6″-O-xyloglycitin, biochanin A, and spinasterol (www.sigmaaldrich.com).
We are offering fresh kudzu roots, harvested in Sylva, NC from soils free of environmental pollutants. Pre-order roots now for shipping or local pick-up in March, 2018. Fresh, cleaned roots are $7/lb., $5/lb for 10 or more lbs. Send us an email at KudzuCulture@gmail.com for more info and to order.
We’ll be digging roots during our annual Kudzu Root Camp, March 16-18. See here for details about how to join in the fun.
September 2nd and 3rd in Sylva, NC!
Join us for two days of hands-on learning about kudzu and how to process the young vines into beautiful fiber that can be used for weaving. Kudzu has been an important plant fiber in China, Japan, and Korea for many centuries, providing a plentiful, perennial source of fiber for making fine clothing and durable garments, paper, wall hangings, and more. Along with learning the details of processing kudzu for fiber, we’ll also explore kudzu cuisine and make special dishes using kudzu root starch we processed earlier in the year, as well as harvest and learn about cooking with kudzu leaves. There will also be a kudzu paper-making demonstration where we’ll make bookmarks for participants to take home.
Instructors and organizers Zev Friedman and Justin Holt, along with kudzu-curious friends and family, have been researching, experimenting with, and teaching about kudzu from a permaculture perspective for the past 7 years.
Our Kudzu Camp workshops are somehow both laid back and jam-packed with goodness. Beyond just learning about kudzu, the Camp is also about experimenting with setting up a seasonal processing ‘village’, working at a scale similar to the traditional Japanese method. We share meals (each participant cooks one meal for the others), sometimes cooked over a campfire, and we each take on a specific small job for a day to keep the processing camp running smoothly. There is no charge for the class, though we do have a suggested daily donation of $15-30 per person.
Message email@example.com with questions and to register.
Dear Kudzu Campers,
Justin Holt and I are excited to be closing in on the fifth annual Kudzu Camp from Thursday, March 16- Sunday March 19. Kudzu Camp will be taking place at the lovely south-facing kudzu paradise residence of my father, Avram Friedman, who is generously hosting our gathering again. We’re another year deep into the learning and healing and growing that can come with this incredible plant, which has so much to teach us about the net of relationships between plants, global ecosystem change, human nutrition and medicine and material needs, and pragmatic economics. We’re intending to have registration filled by March 9. As you probably have read, we’re continuing the “experimental skill-share” model this year in which we ask for a modest sliding scale donation instead of a set tuition; it therefore relies on participants taking some initiative, and each participant helping to make it all run smoothly and keep us comfortable and well fed.
It’s very important that you read the details below and commit to your days of participation and meal contributions by March 5 at latest, so we have time to plan and troubleshoot before the event begins.
Please respond to this email with:
1) Your dates of attendance (we ask that you commit to attending at least 2 full days including Saturday, from8:30-6:00 each day, in order to attend)
2) Your proposed meal time slot and menu (first and second favorite choices for one meal, sometime between Thursday through Sunday, breakfast lunch or dinner)
3) Your plan (or unmet needs) for lodging
4) Your intended donation amount so we know what we have to work with for event expenses, OR your interest in work exchange instead of cash contribution
5) Any other questions or information you have for us at this time
Some things to consider for your participation
1) Commitment to participation, punctuality and contribution– We’ve designed a schedule intended to create fun and group cohesion, a valuable learning experience for you, and to demonstrate an effective kudzu work process (a fairly complex process that requires explanation and attention to detail). Our requirement is that each participant come for at least 2 of the 4 days between March 16-19, and that 1 of those 2 days is Saturday. If you show up late, leave early, or miss a day that you told us you’d come, it could deprive you of learning and impact the whole group. So, please attend when you said you will, arrive on time and stay at least until 6:00 each day (but ideally also for dinner!).
We are again hosting Kudzu Camp this year as an “experimental skill share” rather than a paid workshop, and we’re emphasizing the informal village-style learning vibe instead of a formalized curriculum. Part of this format involves asking participants to cook meals for each other instead of hiring a chef for the event (see #2 below). However, we have put alot into organizing it and have associated expenses, and we’re accepting donations in the spirit of our old teacher Frank Cook: “Give what you can, receive what you need.” We are asking for $25-40/day/person contribution if possible, and no one will be turned away for lack of funds. If you are interested in being involved and want to reduce cost even more, we need several work-exchangers: 2 set-up exchangers to come Wednesday afternoon by 1:00 p.m. and help setup the outdoor kitchen and root processing area, and 1 clean-up work-exchanger to stay through to Monday evening. Please let us know immediately if you want to help out in either of those ways.
This is our daily schedule:
7:30– coffee and tea and hangout
8:00– breakfast served
8:30-9:00– morning circle (and finish breakfast)
9-12:30– Explanation/teaching/kudzu process
1:30-5:30– Kudzu process
6:30– Dinner served
8:00– Evening activity
2) Meal preparation and ingredient standards
The main way we have minimized cost is by instituting a shared meal preparation plan instead of hiring a professional chef. Each participant provides all ingredients for and cooks one meal during his or her Kudzu Camp experience. We expect to have between 15-25 eaters present at each meal. One person prepares each breakfast and if we have enough participants, two people collaborate on each lunch and on each dinner. Please plan a delicious meal with whole food ingredients (i.e., unprocessed and high quality) that you know you can serve on time (according to above schedule), and which includes a balanced set of carbs, fats, proteins and some vegetables. Please make all food gluten free, and ideally organic/homegrown/wildcrafted, with pastured/organically fed meats and dairy products, if you use them. If you have food allergies or strong health-based needs that you haven’t expressed to us yet, please let us know ASAP so we can share that information with the group to help meet your needs.
3) Hearth roles
We are a hardy bunch and will perservere in the outdoor kudzu process if it is at all reasonable. However, this winter-dependent process is inherently uncertain, and if it is wet, muddy and miserably cold we will go inside, and if it looks to persist that way we’ll call off the remainder of the event. Please bring a variety of layered clothing, changes of clothing, rain gear, changes of clothes, a towel for yourself, and at least 2 pairs of outdoor shoes to make sure you’re comfortable. We will have a large overhead tarp this year for the outdoor kitchen and processing area.
6) Evening activities
Here is the precious result of the esoteric art of kudzu starch extraction. On these trays are chunks of root starch that has been leached 10 times in cold water over a period of two weeks. It is now in a final drying stage before storage for a year of kudzu cuisine and medicine.