Here at Eat Drink Better, we talk a lot about being eco-conscious eaters. Many of our readers are locavores, vegans, vegetarians, or flexitarians. But how many of us are ‘invasivores?’
Invasive species wreak havoc ecosystems. Whether it’s kudzu in the southern United States, lionfish in the Carribbean, or Asian carp in the Mississippi River, these non-native plants and animals are bad news for the environment.
Invasive species wipe out native species and disturb important ecosystem functions such as nutrient cycling and provision of wildlife habitat. When ecosystems get disturbed, so do the services provided by ecosystems to humans, such as maintenance of water and air quality, soil fertility, control of infectious disease, and support of local economies.
A recent story in the New York Times highlighted that eating invasive species could be incredibly beneficial to the environment. If enough people learned how to identify, cook, and enjoy eating invasives, including them in our diet could help keep these exotic species in check.
James Gorman writes:
As the Locavore Hunter, based in Virginia, [Jackson Landers] teaches urbanites how to hunt and butcher deer. He has branched out from the locavore life to invasives, and lionfish are one target. But as he has pushed the envelope of the invasivore approach, he has hunted and eaten feral pigs, two species of iguana, armadillos, starlings, pigeons and resident Canada geese. . .
Mr. Landers, who grew up in a vegetarian household, taught himself to hunt. He believes that eating invasives can have a real effect. “When human beings decide that something tastes good, we can take them down pretty quickly,” he said. Our taste for passenger pigeon wiped that species out, he said. What if we developed a similar taste for starlings?
Gorman goes on to explore the possibility of broadening the definition of invasives to include species that are not necessarily exotic but extremely overpopulated in many habitats, such as deer.
I often eat venison and garden weeds like purslane and Japanese knotweed. My most adventurous invasivore pursuit was making pesto from garlic mustard, an invasive plant that poses a severe threat to native plants and animals in forests of the Eastern and Midwestern U.S., but I wasn’t particularly pleased with the results.
Have you eaten any invasive species? Share your experiences (and recipes) as comments.