Flowers - cooked or made into pickles.Stems and young leaves - raw or cooked. A very nutritious food, the fresh young shoots taste like a cross between a bean and a pea. The cooked leaves contain (per 100 g) 36 calories, 89.0 percent moisture, 0.4 g protein, 0.1 g fat, 9.7 g total carbohydrate. 7.7 g fiber, 0.8 fat, 34 mg Ca, 20 mg P, 4.9 mg Fe, 0.03 mg thiamin, 0.91 mg riboflavin, 0.8 mg niacin.
Can be used as a ground cover plant in a sunny position.Plants have an extensive root system which can be 1.8 metres deep, they are used for erosion control and for rebuilding depleted soils. A member of the Leguminosae, so it adds nitrogen to the soil through the actions of root bacteria.
The flowers and the roots are antidote, antiemetic, antipyretic, antispasmodic, demulcent, diaphoretic, digestive, febrifuge, hypoglycaemic and hypotensive. A concoction of the flowers and tubers is used to treat alcoholism, fever, colds, diarrhoea, dysentery, acute intestinal obstruction etc. It is useful in the treatment of angina pectoris and migraine. The root is frequently used as a remedy for measles, often in combination with Cimicifuga foetida. The root contains puerarin. This increases the blood flow to the coronary artery and protects against acute myocardial ischaemia caused by the injection of pituitrin. The root can be harvested from the autumn to the spring and is used fresh or dried. The flowers are harvested just before they are fully open and are dried for later use. The stems are galactogogue and are also applied as a poultice to incipient boils, swellings, sore mouths etc. The seed is used in the treatment of hangover and dysentery.The leaves are styptic.
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Plants are hardy to about -15°c, they can resprout from the base if they are cut down by frosts. A twining plant, the top growth is not generally hardy in Britain and plants do not always flower here. Plants can be grown as annuals in Britain, the seed is started off in a greenhouse and is planted out after the last frosts. They can grow up to 6 metres in their first year and make good temporary screens. The plant succeeds outdoors in Berlin, but it has to be propagated vegetatively there. This plant is cultivated for its edible root in Japan and China. The flowers have a sweet vanilla scent. When grown in warmer climates than Britain the root can be invasive and plants have become weeds. Introduced into the southern N. American states in 1876 as a soil stabilizer, the plant has spread very widely (it can grow up to 30cm in a day), has swamped out native vegetation, including large trees. It is considered to be one of the most obnoxious weeds in that region.This species has a symbiotic relationship with certain soil bacteria, these bacteria form nodules on the roots and fix atmospheric nitrogen. Some of this nitrogen is utilized by the growing plant but some can also be used by other plants growing nearby.
Problems, pests & diseases
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