Eating Invasive Species

We read with great interest a report in The New York Times this weekend about a new way to fight invasive species: by eating them. Fish and plants that have been introduced to non-native regions can disrupt the food chain and even cause environmental damage. The lionfish, as the Times story points out, not only looks intimidating with its venomous spikes and dark stripes, but it's gobbling up reef fish from Florida to the Caribbean.

The lionfish joins the Asian Carp, which was erroneously said to be able to walk across land and literally invade American lakes (in truth, it can only hop a few feet), in setting off environmental alarms. It may not be the ideal solution, but chefs and organizations like Seafood Watch and the James Beard Foundation are suggesting that one way to combat these invaders' growth is to convince people to eat them. According to the Times, tilapia's rise in popularity had a similar trajectory.

One of the first chefs tasked with turning the lionfish and Asian Carp from predator into prey is Food Republic's old friend and sustainable fishing advocate Kerry Heffernan, who teamed with the Beard Foundation and Food and Water Watch to experiment with Asian carp ceviche and braised lionfish filet in brown butter sauce.

"Lionfish, it turns out, looks hideous but tastes great," according to the Times.

This isn't the first we're hearing of an attempt to fight fire with fire, so to speak. A few months back, Food Republic spoke with Fullsteam Brewing's Sean Wilson about his efforts to make beer from kudzu, the invasive plant sometimes called "the vine that ate the South." Kudzu, native to Asia, looks like a lusher version of ivy, and it's overtaken trees from Fullsteam's North Carolina down through Georgia. Other efforts to turn a negative to a positive include turning kudzu into soap and animal feed. If Wilson succeeds with his beer experiment, kudzu could be the most beneficial invasive species yet; not only can it get you drunk, it's also the active ingredient in some hangover remedies.

Would you eat Asian carp or lionfish? Sound off in the comments.