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Let’s Eat the Invasive Species

Scientific American September 2013

‘How (and why) to Eat Invasive Species by chef Bun Lai in the new issue of Scientific American proposes an answer to the economic damage ($120 billion a year) that invasive species cause. Eat them. Eat the wild boar, the lionfish and Japanese knotweed. Turn them into thin-sliced hot meat drizzled with ginger, garlic,roasted sesame and sauvignon blanc soy sauce, or thinly sliced raw lionfish sprinkled with lime juice, seven kinds of crushed peppers, roasted seaweed flakes, toasted sesame seeds and sea salt, and lemonade made by blending knotweed shoots (that taste kind of like Granny Smith apples) with fresh stevia leaves, fresh kefir lime leaves, lemon juice, and mineral water over ice!

Bun Lai is not the first to make this suggestion. In the July 2013 issue of The Atlantic Nancy Matsumoto wrote: “More and more people are trying hard to prove they do. The Corvallis, Oregon-based Institute for Applied Ecology’s (IAE) Eradication by Mastication program includes an annual invasive species cook-off and a published cookbook called The Joy of Cooking Invasives: A Culinary Guide to Biocontrol (kudzu quiche! nutria eggrolls!). The program will hold a workshop this summer on how to dig, process, and cook up the highly invasive purple varnish clam. Tom Kaye, executive director of IAE, made one of three prize-winning entries at last year’s cook-off: battered, deep-fried Cajun bullfrog legs. Second place went to popcorn English house sparrow drumsticks. Despite their poor labor-to-meat ratio, Kaye says, “they were tasty.” Third prize went to nutria prepared three ways, including pulled-pork style and made into sausages.”

Back on July 9, 2011 the New York Times ran an article by Elisabeth Rosenthal titled Answer for Invasive Species-Put it on a Plant and Eat It. She quotes “Humans are the most ubiquitous predators on earth,” said Philip Kramer, director of the Caribbean program for the Nature Conservancy. “Instead of eating something like shark fin soup, why not eat a species that is causing harm, and with your meal make a positive contribution?”

A whole website Eat the Invaders is devoted helping us find, prepare and eat invasive species from the lamb’s quarters weed to the nutria, otherwise known as river rat. This is a fascinating website with information about invaders, recipes and links to all kinds of resources like the Center for Invasive and Aquatic Plants and Invasivore.org run by Notre Dame graduate students. They also note that the classic Larousse Gastronomique cookbook, first published in 1938 and last revised in 1988 -  ” [is] fabulous!  For the invasivore, there’s a nice little entry on the Burgundian way with the rat. And, of course, all those North American invasive weeds are in there.”

Could you be an Invasivore?

BTW – I cannot help telling your to take a look at this latest issue of Scientific American -  if only to look at the various covers. I had a terrible time choosing between the yellow, orange, and red covers. Not only was the background cover different the tiny pictures of various foods and equipment that make up the spoon graphic were also different. Which cover had more of my favorite foods? I finally chose the yellow cover that included watermelon. Hey, it’s summer.

 

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