National: Finding Tasty Invasive Species
The story about the UK's efforts to save the red squirrel was already linked in today's FYI, but I can't help but return to it, since I've written about eating invasive species to extinction (in the particular area in which they're invasive, of course) in the past. It warmed my heart to read about Brits making an effort to eat grey squirrel so that it can stop bullying around the native red one.
The next thought was, which animals could we target here? So we all collectively did a bit of research in our MenuPages markets. It's complicated, of course. Rarely is it as straightforward as this squirrel situation — kill and eat one, save the other, more adorable native one. For one thing, squirrel sounds pretty tasty, akin to rabbit. For another, it doesn't swim around in polluted waters, and it's not terribly difficult to catch. These problems often plague the non-natives we deal with, however.
South Florida: The climate is inviting and welcoming not only to snowbirds and retirees but also to all sorts of invasive species. Unfortunately, animals like Burmese pythons and iguanas aren't exactly known for being tasty. But hey, there's lionfish! And there's always wild boar; Florida's got those aplenty. Granted you'll probably have to shoot it yourself (not easy, and pretty dangerous) and get someone to skin/butcher it for you, but the reward would be homemade local prosciutto. Yum.
Boston & Philadelphia: The Asian shore crab and European green crab are all over the place, but unfortunately they're far too small to eat. And Pennsylvania has a number of freshwater invasive fish, but the waters are too polluted for consumption. Not too far away, in the Chesapeake Bay and in southern New Jersey, the Chinese mitten crab has begun to establish a population. In China, these are considered a delicacy. Toss them with some Old Bay seasoning, and Americans will probably like them too.
Chicago: Eat Asian carp! Thanks to an electronic barrier, they have yet to make it to Lake Michigan, but this fish with a voracious appetite is very common in the Illinois River. According to this NPR story, it's sold mostly to Asian-American communities in California, New York and Chicago. A state senator suggested putting it on state prison menus and others think it should be called something else to make it more appealing to non-Asians.
San Francisco: There are 85 invasive species in San Francisco Bay, several of which — Bay mussels, Japanese littleneck clams, Manila clam, and the Chinese mitten crab is there too — would make for tasty eating, if only the Bay weren't so polluted.