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Kudzu is edible: Here's how to eat it

In the Southeast, you’ll find kudzu draping the scenery off the side of the interstate. You’ll find kudzu climbing that abandoned barn in your neighbor’s backyard. And if you sit long enough in one place, you may even find kudzu growing up your leg — the picturesque, prolific creeper vine can grow up to 12 inches in a day.

But one place you’re unlikely to find kudzu is on your plate. Why is that?

>> Back to school: 15 preschool lunch ideas even teens will eat

After all, in today’s culinary climate of favoring locally grown produce, shouldn’t we eat an edible leaf that grows seemingly everywhere?

“I’ve never cooked with or used kudzu, because none of the farmers I source from have ever had it on their lists,” said Jarrett Stieber, an Atlanta chef with a reputation for using local, seasonal ingredients. “But I’m open to cooking with it. I’ve used similar things like sweet potato and pumpkin leaf, which are popular in Southeast Asian and some African cuisines, but never kudzu.”

Regardless of a willingness to try, is eating kudzu even possible? Yes, say experts, as long as you know what you’re doing.

“Kudzu seeds and seed pods aren’t edible, but the leaves, roots, flowers and vine tips are,” said Raleigh Saperstein, senior horticulturist at the Atlanta Botanical Garden. She pointed out that, despite its reputation as an omnipresent nuisance, U.S. Forest Service research has shown that kudzu, whose scientific name is Pueraria montana, only occupies one-tenth of 1 percent of the South’s 200 million acres of forest. Asian privet, by comparison, takes up 14 times the amount of space that kudzu does. Making kudzu edible may be a way to demythologize and destigmatize the plant.

>> Is fruit juice healthy for kids? Expert weighs in

Darryl Wilson is a North Carolina forager and entrepreneur whose business, Carolina Kudzu Crazy, focuses on edible applications of the vine. He started by feeding the leaves to pigs and rabbits before moving on to us humans, avoiding the larger leaves, which can be too tough.

“We use the small leaves in recipes that call for spinach bacon quiche,” said Wilson. Kudzu has a mild spinach-like flavor, and Wilson said that it absorbs other flavors well.

Kudzu flowers may hold the most uses for those looking to get something tasty out of the vine. Yes, kudzu has flowers. They’re small and purple and blossom beneath the leaves, which is why they’re not easily noticed. The vine generally flowers in late July through early September, and hanging vines are more likely to have flowers than those growing along the ground.

Carolina Kudzu Crazy has also developed grilling glazes, stir-fry glazes, both sweet and spicy jellies and a pancake syrup, all using kudzu blossoms that impart a flavor that tastes like a grape-apple combination to some, and a strawberry-apple to others, according to Wilson.

Thinking of testing out your own kudzu recipes? Saperstein cautions against just pulling off the highway with a pair of shears. “Like any foraged food, avoid plants that might have been sprayed with herbicides or are growing alongside major roadways where they could be contaminated with vehicle exhaust,” she said.

>> Hot Cheetos, Takis under fire after mom blames spicy snacks for daughter's gallbladder surgery

Kudzu originates in East Asia. It was first imported to the United States from Japan in 1876, brought over for the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia. It made its way to the Southeast within a decade. But it wasn’t until farmer, radio personality and Atlanta Constitution columnist Channing Cope exhorted its benefits in the mid-1900s that it began to spread across the region.

So although kudzu has become iconically Southern, perhaps to find an edible application for it, it’s best to look to the culinary traditions from where kudzu is rooted.

“I have cooked with powder of kudzu root when I was in Asia,” said Jason Liang, the sushi chef behind Brush Sushi Izakaya in Decatur, Georgia, and the newly opened Japanese fast-casual spot Momonoki in Midtown Atlanta. “The powder is mixed with water then added to thicken the sauce or soup. It doesn’t have color or taste of its own.”

In addition to kudzu starch’s use as a cooking thickener, Liang noted that dehydrated kudzu root is commonly used in Chinese medicine to relieve hangovers, upset stomachs, headaches and flu symptoms.

And while kudzu is unlikely to be the next locavore craze, Atlanta diners may see some dishes incorporating the vine creep onto menus around town.

>> Read more trending news 

“I’m sure it would go well with other veggies and summer fruits, too, like peach, blueberry and fig,” speculated chef Jarrett Stieber of the pop-up concept Eat Me Speak Me.

And Matt Marcus, the new chef-owner of Watershed, is currently testing culinary applications for kudzu.

“We are making powders, oils, papers, jams and more while trying to figure out the sweet spot between flavor and color,” said Marcus, who’s also playing around with okra-esque kudzu “slime” in his kitchen. “I think most people don’t use kudzu in town because of the stigma it has gotten as an invasive vine. It’s also not easy to manipulate, and the yield is very low for usable raw product without refinement.”

But perhaps the vine just doesn’t have enough going for it to make it worth the trouble. After all, said Jason Liang, “It doesn’t have much taste, and no one seems to care about it. Maybe we all have enough things to eat already.”

Revival of so-called hot water challenge sparks warnings from parents

Parents across the country are warning others after a prank among teenagers in Indiana left a 15-year-old with second-degree burns

The hot water challenge consists of pouring boiling water on an unsuspecting friend or drinking boiling water through a straw and uploading video of the prank on the internet.

The challenge reportedly began online years ago, but the recent incident in Indiana  is drawing more attention to the prank.

Kyland Clark, 15, said skin fell off his chest and face after he and his friend looked up and tried the hot water challenge on YouTube, according to WXIN.

>> Read more trending news 

“I looked down at my chest. My skin just fell off my chest, and then I looked in the mirror and I had skin falling off here and on my face,” Kyland told WXIN July 26.

WXIN reported that Kyland is expected to heal from his injuries, according to Fox 59, but Doctors in Indiana say they have seen an increase in emergency room visits from victims of the so-called challenge. 

“It’s suggesting to people that they can try it and they won’t be hurt, but they will be, I can guarantee it,” Dr. Ed Bartkus of Indiana University School of Medicine told WXIN.

In 2017, an 8-year-old girl in Florida died after drinking boiling water from a straw on a dare after watching a series of boiling water challenge videos on YouTube. 

That same year, an 11-year-old girl in New York City was burned on over 85 percent of her body when a friend poured boiling water on her while at a neighborhood block party. 

Alina Dow, who attended the party, told WPIX at the time that she hoped the 11-year-old girl’s recovery would inspire others. 

“Just to let the little girl know that she is supported and she has friends and this is not OK,” Dow said. 

More information on how to prevent hot water burns and scalds is on the United States Fire Administration website.

Wraps, salads sold at Kroger, Trader Joe's recalled over possible parasite

Have you recently picked up a salad or wrap from the grocery store? It could make you sick, according to a new health alert.

The Food Safety and Inspection Service said Monday that "beef, pork and poultry salad and wrap products" recently distributed by Indianapolis-based Caito Foods may be contaminated with a parasite called cyclospora.

>> On USDA.gov: See the full list of recalled products

The products, produced July 15-18, have "sell by" dates of July 18-23 and were sold at Kroger, Trader Joe's, Walgreens and other retailers across the country, WRTV reported. The recalled items also have an establishment number of EST. 39985 or P-39985, the FSIS said.

>> On USDA. gov: See the labels here

Health officials issued the alert after Caito Foods' lettuce supplier, Fresh Express, said "the chopped romaine that is used to manufacture some of their salads and wraps was being recalled," according to the FSIS.

>> RELATED STORY: Listeria concerns prompt recall of grab-and-go sandwiches in 11 states

Symptoms of cyclospora infection include watery diarrhea with frequent bowel movements, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Its incubation period could last up to 14 days, officials said.

>> Read more trending news 

If you have any of the recalled products, you should throw them away or return them to the store, officials said. If you think you are sick, visit your health care provider.

Read more here.

Man's limbs amputated after dog's lick likely caused bacterial infection

A Wisconsin man's limbs were amputated after doctors said he contracted a bacterial infection – likely from a dog's lick.

>> RELATED STORY: You probably shouldn't let your dog lick your face

According to WITI, Greg Manteufel, 48, of West Bend, believed he had the flu when he went to the emergency room in late June. But doctors later determined that capnocytophaga, a type of bacteria found in dog saliva, had caused the infection that left him bruised, dropped his blood pressure and decreased blood flow to his limbs.

To keep Manteufel alive, doctors had to amputate both legs to the knees and both arms to the mid-forearm, according to a mid-July update to a GoFundMe page for the family. That campaign has raised more than $27,000.

Manteufel's wife, Dawn, told WITI that her husband has "been around dogs all of his life."

>> Read more trending news 

"We can't wrap our heads around it," she said.

Dr. Silvia Munoz-Price, who specializes in infectious diseases, told WITI that "99 percent of people that have dogs will never have this issue."

Read more here.

Grieving mom pleads for return of stolen necklace containing baby son's ashes

A Connecticut mom is making a emotional plea for the return of an irreplaceable keepsake that was stolen from her: a silver necklace holding her baby boy's ashes.

According to WVIT, LeeAnn Winn of South Windsor said a thief made off with her purse Saturday after breaking into her friend's car in Hartford. The necklace containing the ashes was inside the handbag.

>> See a photo of the necklace here

"I am heartbroken and devastated that a part of my baby is out there somewhere and not with someone who loves & misses him," Winn wrote on Facebook.

>> Read more trending news 

Winn told WVIT that her son was 3 months old when he died nine years ago.

“I just want him back with me, with the one who loves him," she told the TV station. "It’s all I have left, unfortunately."

Read more here.

Longhorned tick: New invasive species found in more states

new invasive tick species has been confirmed in Pennsylvania for the first time, just weeks after agriculture officials found one in North Carolina.

>> Watch the news report here

>> Lyme disease cases on the rise: What is it, and how to avoid it

According to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, recent testing found an Asian longhorned tick on a deer in Pennsylvania’s Centre County, where Penn State is.

This particular species is tough to tell apart from others.

>> ‘Very aggressive tick,’ whose bite causes red meat allergies not a hoax, CDC says

As the name suggests, they have horns, but they're so tiny that you can't see them without a microscope.

The discovery is not good news for Pennsylvania’s already bad tick problem.

>> 10 ways to prevent tick bites on people and pets

The deer ticks that are prevalent in Pennsylvania are carriers of Lyme disease, and Pennsylvania has consistently had the most cases of Lyme disease in the country.

>> Lyme disease: 7 questions about tick-borne infections

These Asian ticks haven't been found to carry Lyme yet, but scientists are concerned they could.

Scientists say the tick does carry a disease that has infected hogs and cattle in Asia, but they have not found any disease-carrying "longhorns" in the United States.

>> Read more trending news 

The Asian ticks, which made their first U.S. appearance in New Jersey last year, have since been found in several other states, such as Arkansas, New York, Virginia, West Virginia and North Carolina, the Tribune-Review reported.

Efforts to eradicate the ticks have failed.

The female ticks can reproduce asexually and can lay up to 2,000 eggs after feeding on a single host.

– The Cox Media Group National Content Desk contributed to this report.

9 healthy-sounding foods that have more sugar than a Krispy Kreme doughnut

American Heart Association experts recommend men shouldn’t eat more than 36 grams of added sugar a day and women should limit their sugar consumption to 25 grams.

For example, a single Krispy Kreme doughnut, which has 10 grams of sugar, takes up a good bulk of your recommended daily intake.

>> Read more trending news 

But healthy-sounding snack replacements like yogurt and raisins actually rack up more sugar than you might think. Some options even have more than double the sugar of a Krispy Kreme original glazed doughnut.

Here are some foods and drinks with more sugar than a Krispy Kreme doughnut:

  • Bottle of Naked juice green machine smoothie: 53 grams or about five Krispy Kreme original glazed doughnuts
  • One-fourth cup of Sun Maid raisins: 29 grams or three Krispy Kreme doughnuts
  • Chobani blueberry greek yogurt: 15 grams or 1 ½ Krispy Kreme doughnuts
  • Nature Valley oats and honey crunchy granola bar: 11 grams or about one Krispy Kreme doughnut
  • Vitaminwater: up to 32 grams of sugar or about three Krispy Kreme doughnuts
  • One cup of Motts apple sauce: 22 grams or about 2 Krispy Kreme doughnuts
  • Odwalla mango protein flavored soy protein shake: 47 grams or about 5 Krispy Kreme doughnuts
  • Quaker instant oatmeal in apple cinnamon: 12 grams, a little more sugar than one Krispy Kreme doughnut
  • Nesquik low fat chocolate milk: 22 grams, or about two Krispy Kreme doughnuts

To learn more about added sugars and your recommended intake, visit heart.org.

This story has been updated.

Dragon's Breath liquid nitrogen snack sends Florida boy to hospital, mom says

A Florida mom said what looked like a fun and harmless treat sent her child to the hospital

>> Watch the news report here

Dragon's Breath, a cereal-like treat, is sold at The Avenues Mall in Jacksonville.

It’s coated in liquid nitrogen, which makes it look like you're breathing smoke out of your mouth and nose after eating it.

Racheal Richard McKenny of St. Augustine said her son has very mild asthma.

>> On ActionNewsJax.com: Man dies after eating raw oysters at Florida restaurant, report says

She says he started having trouble breathing on the way home from the mall, shortly after eating the snack.

“Around 20 minutes in, the cough became really consistent. By the time we passed the Palencia subdivision, he was coughing so bad that he was having trouble catching his breath,” she wrote on Facebook. “We knew he couldn’t breathe, and we knew that we couldn’t get him to the hospital in time.”

>> See the post here

McKenny said they quickly pulled into a fire station, where EMTs immediately started Johnny on an albuterol treatment and hooked him up to an IV while preparing him for transport. 

“The nebulizer was not improving his breathing at all and, by the time they got him loaded into the ambulance, he needed a shot of epinephrine,” she said. “Johnny had a second breathing treatment and steroid on the way to the hospital.”

Dr. Sunil Joshi of Family Allergy Asthma Consultants in Jacksonville said even people who don’t have asthma could have side effects from the nitrogen in the treat.

“Even if you don’t have asthma it can be very, very inflammatory or irritating to the airway and your esophagus and your stomach, all of that,” he said.

>> Read more trending news 

He also said exposure to the nitrogen can cause serious burns. 

Dragon’s Breath sold by a different vendor made headlines in October when a 14-year-old girl was severely burned at a fair.

A county in New York has also moved to ban the treats.

A manager of the kiosk at the mall in Jacksonville said a notice at the cash register was updated to include an allergy and asthma warning after Johnny’s reaction.

He said the business believes it was an isolated incident and that several customers with asthma who ate Dragon’s Breath did not have a reaction.

McKenny posted a warning on Facebook, saying she hopes sharing Johnny’s experience prevents this from happening to any other family.

How to get a McDonald's MacCoin, free Big Mac in honor of iconic burger's 50th anniversary

McDonald's is celebrating the 50th anniversary of its iconic Big Mac in a big way.

Starting at lunchtime Thursday, customers at 14,000 participating restaurants across the country will receive a MacCoin with the purchase of a Big Mac while supplies last, the company announced in a news release.

>> Read more trending news 

From Friday through the end of the year, customers can redeem a MacCoin for a free Big Mac at participating restaurants.

The coins have the following five designs, each paying tribute to a different decade:

  • The '70s MacCoin's theme is flower power.
  • The '80s MacCoin pays tribute to pop art. 
  • The '90s MacCoin has bold, abstract shapes.
  • The '00s MacCoin focuses on technology.
  • The '10s MacCoin honors "the evolution of communication." 

According to WPXI, the iconic burger was created in the Pittsburgh area by franchisee Jim Delligatti.

“When my great-grandfather Jim Delligatti invented the Big Mac at his grill in Uniontown, Pennsylvania, he just wanted to make his local customers happy,” said Nick Delligatti, fourth-generation McDonald’s owner-operator and great-grandson of Delligatti. “August 2 would have been my great-grandfather’s 100th birthday, and I believe he would be very proud knowing his humble sandwich has made such a lasting impression that people all around the world can enjoy it wherever they find a McDonald’s.” 

Read more here.

WATCH: Dad working 3 jobs surprises daughter with dream dress for school formal

A hardworking Pittsburgh dad made his daughter's dreams come true when he surprised her with her dream dress for her eighth-grade formal.

>> Need something to lift your spirits? Read more uplifting news 

According to a Facebook post by Style Exchange Boutique, he originally told his daughter it wasn't financially possible but ended up surprising her with the dress at McDonald's, one of his workplaces. In the video, the girl is crying tears of joy as she embraces her dad.

The video was posted in June but just recently went viral. 

>> Watch the video here

A more recent post by the store, which sold her dad the dress, included a photo of the girl wearing the gown.

>> Read more trending news 

"By popular demand, we wanted to share a picture of one of our beautiful customers on her special day," the post read. "Here is a picture of Miss Smith shining on the day of her 8th grade formal last month wearing the dress her father purchased for her from the video that brought so many tears, well wishes, and positive words of encouragement from all over the world. Keep shining beautiful!"

>> See the post here

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