Invading our plates

01 dandelion
Invasive species are non-native plants and animals that are, as the name implies, very successful in conquering new environments. They end up in these new environments with the help of humans, sometimes intentionally (as abandoned pets or ornamental plants), other times unintentionally (as hitchhiking water organisms in ballast waters of transport ships). [1]

Their presence does not go unnoticed though. They conquer and alter their “new homes” and make them a tough place to live in for native species. Besides causing environmental degradation they can also have negative effects on human health by causing strong allergic reactions, rashes and even poisoning. All this sums up into something everybody understands – increased financial costs. Considering climate change, the issue of invasive species could even be bigger. New climatic conditions could make these species more resistant and allow them to conquer places in which they now, for the same reason, cannot live in. [2][3]

02 japanese knotweed Albert BridgeGetting rid of invasive species can be a tough business as they are very good at reproducing. The method of managing an invasive species depends on the species and environmental conditions. Plant species can so be sprayed with chemicals, pulled, moved, burned down or suppressed with the help of other organisms, such as livestock, plants, bugs and bacteria. [4]

All methods mentioned above are (or at least should be) carried out by professionals and mostly demand the use of special equipment. However, there is one approach that does not demand either of the two. With some cooking skills, imagination and a good appetite everybody can try to confront invasive species. Japanese knotweed salsa verde, dandelion green salad, bastard cabbage chana masala, asian carp dumplings, autumn olive jam, lionfish nachos, bullfrog leg piccata, kudzu quiche, garlic mustard pesto…hungry already? These are just some of the recipes from web pages that encourage people to take up their forks and knives in a stand against invasive species. [5][6]

04 fishing for asian carp NIt seems as if invasive species have begun to invade our plates. But is the “eat them to beat them” approach really a successful way to tackle this issue? Their removal is complex and requires a lot of dedication. An occasional “harvest” for dinner would have no effect on the species. Moreover, a newly created market for an invasive species could also be a motive to prevent its extermination. Lastly, this simple solution cannot be applied to all of them. In short – gastronomy alone won’t help us get rid of invasive species. [7]

If you do feel like helping the environment with your stomach, there are things you should pay attention to. In order to avoid an unpleasant dining 03 fors and knivesexperience make sure you have correctly identified the invasive species – don’t eat what you don’t know. It is also important to avoid gathering plants growing close to heavy traffic or in polluted areas. When preparing an “invasive dish” you have to wash and cook the ingredients thoroughly. If you decide to eat the species raw first taste a small piece and then wait for a while to see if you react to it. Some species might need special preparation. In this case leave the cooking to an experienced cook. [8]

When all’s said and done, we can only say: Bon appetit.

By Aljaž Malek


Japanese knotweed photograph © Copyright Albert Bridge



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