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Owning our role as predator? March 24, 2008

Posted by eyegillian in change, diversity, environment, food, life, nature, strange, world.
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Invasive species posterInvasive species are threatening to take over our environment. So what are we going to do about it: wring our hands in despair?

We humans have long been told we are the invasive species, the top predator on our planet. There’s already too little food to go around, and if we don’t act now, the aggressive plants and animals could take control. So, what better solution than to let our predator instinct out from under the veneer of civility. C’mon, guys, let’s go after those alien invaders!

A fun and practical idea popped up on a trend blog in Japan recently (thanks to the link from Naturally Interesting), where adventurous restos have been making the special of the day a little more unusual. In Japan, invasive species such as the North American Blue Gill and Black Bass are responsible for the diminishing population of local fish. So, what do they do? Eat them!

This found food is tapped to be a new fad; kudos to the suppliers who saw the current eco-interest and found a way to bring awareness about species population control to the table. Apparently the non-traditional burgers are delish!

Applying this idea to North America is a good fit, because we have lots of invasive species from which to choose. Take zebra mussels, for instance.

zebra musselsOriginally from the Balkans, Poland and the former Soviet Union, zebra mussels were first discovered in North America in 1988, and now they’ve spread from the Great Lakes down to the Texas panhandle. Zebra mussels are notorious for their ability to reproduce: in one location, researchers noted that in one square metre, zebra mussel populations jumped from 1,000 to 700,000 in six months. They cause deterioration of dock pilings, plug water pipes, encrust boats, and disrupt fish habitat and the flow of nutrients.

Are they edible? The contaminants they filter out of the water then concentrates in their flesh, and causes sickness or death in the fish and water birds which eat the infected mussels. So, first let’s keep contaminants out of the water, then get out the butter and garlic!

Speaking of garlic, garlic mustard is considered to be one of the most invasive exotic plants in Canada. It thrives in roadside ditches and woodlands. Once it moves in, it steals water, nutrients and light away from native plants, and chokes out forest understory growth, threatening the health of the forest ecosystem. Garlic mustard is also toxic to butterflies.

Is it edible? It’s a member of the mustard family, smells like garlic, and was originally grown as a healing herb. What do you think?

Asian long-horned beetle

So, what about the Asian Long-Horned Beetle, which tunnels into not only dead and dying trees, but also attacks apparently healthy trees? It prefers maple, poplar and willow, but also devours horse chestnut, mulberry, plum, pear, black locust, elm, chinaberry, citrus, birch and rose of Sharon.

This bug sure fits the bill, but is it edible? Well, here’s some food for thought, from a paper by Gene R. Defoliart of the University of Wisconson:

“Many species of insects have served as traditional foods among indigenous peoples, especially in warmer climes, and the insects have played an important role in the history of human nutrition. As part of the hunter-gatherer style of life, the main criteria for selection of these traditional species appears to be medium-to-large size and easy availability… Thus it is not surprising that many insects considered as crop pests in modern agriculture have served as important food sources.”

And, yes, there’s actually a website with insect recipes and information on bug-eating around the world. For those of you with unsqueamish stomachs, check out What’s That Bug for a description of Roasted Giant Water Bugs and other tasty specimens.

These are just a few ideas to get you thinking; what other invasive species should be on the hit (and eat) list?

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    Related Links:
    Invasive alien species in Canada
    CBC: Alien Invasion
    Invasive Species (Lake Huron Centre for Coastal Conservation)
    Invasive plants and pests
    The Nature Conservancy: Invasive Species page



    1. lavenderbay - March 24, 2008

    How about dog-strangling vine? Stuff the pods, grind the seeds for flour, add the shoots to salads, strew the restaurant floor with lengths of the dried vine?

    2. Shaw - March 24, 2008

    In Washington State, the Himalayan and evergreen blackberry species are non-native and invasive, and they’re very prominent. For those living there, I would suggest a massive blackberry picking festival, including pie baking and eating celebrations, and then a widespread clearing of the weeds.

    Your article has also reminded me of The Matrix (the first one) — the scene in which Smith is torturing Morpheus and expounds on how human beings behave more than anything like a virus, moving from one area to the next, destroying resources. I wonder if there is any situation, any topic, that cannot be contextualized within The Matrix . . .

    3. eyegillian - March 24, 2008

    I like the idea of cleaning out the dog-strangling vine, Lavenderbay — I wonder if the dried vine would work well in basket-weaving or as twine?

    4. eyegillian - March 24, 2008

    I hadn’t heard about the invasion of the blackberries in Washington State, Shaw, but the festival idea sounds marvelous!

    And I know The Matrix scene you’re referring to; I think the scene really works (in a creepy kind of way) because what Smith says makes sense… In my optimistic heart, I hope our capacity and yearning for beauty can overcome our tendency for destruction.

    5. lavenderbay - March 26, 2008

    Here’s another one: develop a delicious vegetarian pate, a la canard confit, from the purple loosestrife that’s been menacing the marshes, and give the ponds back to the ducks.

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