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Eating Invasives: Delicious or Dangerous?

The risks need to be recognized. So, too, do the benefits.

Intensive invasive species control poses risks of its own. With its war metaphors and scorched earth campaigns, invasives eradication often requires hefty doses of toxic chemicals. And just as often, weeds or invasive animals still flourish. Aside from cases on small islands such as Santa Cruz, complete eradication is usually impossible.

Recognizing dandelions as a food source will not eradicate the plant. But spraying dandelions doesn’t, either.

In many ways, eating invasives is not a control measure so much as it is a new way of interacting with non-native species. Through eating them, they become part of our environment rather than “enemies.” And because they’re prolific and abundant, they make ideal sustainable, low-carbon, local food sources.

Despite our best efforts, invasive species already thrive in our midst. Is serving them for dinner really going to make them even more prevalent?

Doubtful. These species are here to stay. It’s time to recognize them as a truly sustainable and abundant food source. I’ll take the fried iguana served over a bed of dandelion greens, please.

Matt Miller is a senior science writer for The Nature Conservancy. He writes features and blogs about the conservation research being conducted by the Conservancy’s 550 scientists. Matt previously worked for nearly 11 years as director of communications for the Conservancy’s Idaho program. He serves on the national board of directors of the Outdoor Writers Association of America. An avid naturalist and outdoorsman, Matt has traveled the world in search of wildlife and stories.

[Image: Iguanas, an invasive species in places like Florida, are becoming a menu item for local foodies. Image source: Matt Miller/TNC]

Read more: Diet & Nutrition, Environment, Food, Green, Lawns & Gardens, Natural Pest Control, Nature, Nature & Wildlife, Pests, Wildlife, , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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1:20PM PDT on May 6, 2013

Here on Montserrat (Caribbean), we attended a workshop on the pros and cons of the Lion Fish, a purely invasive and poisonous fish currently destroying reefs up and down the east coast of the US and throughout the Caribbean.
They propagate at an enormous speed (5,000 eggs every three days). Their spines are poisonous. However, caught and handled carefully, they can be made into fantastic fish cakes. There were some made for all of us to taste. Now if only reps from the hotels and restaurants were at the workshop, and if only the fishers would stop throwing them back into the sea when the fish are trapped in their fish pots. Left alone, the Lion Fish are killing all the reef fish. The answer? Eat 'em!

7:51AM PDT on Sep 11, 2012

Interesting points. Thanks.

8:23AM PDT on Jul 31, 2012

Eating invasive non native species sounds intriguing. Saute Purple Loosestrife in unsalted butter perhaps? Pretty to look at but they chock off native plants in the wetlands. Sadly, I image the colourful loosestrife is likely not nutritious and maybe poisonous. Can be medicinal for sores according to medicinal lore but haven't seen it on the shelves. Even the wildlife in Canada won't eat it, except a few non native beetles.

No iguana's trek around as the cold in the winter would kill them off, dandelions and the like are tasty if not sprayed with toxins. Not everyone is a vegetarian, many are omnivores and while one says if we don't like invasive species then one can move, hardly workable. No pythons lurk here, too cold.

Some are areas of the world eat rats as meat...prices too high for regular meat. Ouch!

Meat eaters will always eat meat, others will stick to plant life. People do what suits their lifestyle. When Mother Nature redesigns life on Earth to consume rock pate and not living organisms be it plant or animals then we can dine on the non living and not judge the diet of others.

1:09PM PDT on Jun 28, 2012


5:21AM PDT on Jun 12, 2012

thanks for sharing

1:05PM PDT on Jun 8, 2012

I love dandelion greens and agree that it is such a waste to destroy them with toxins. But you have to get permissions to harvest them and not all homeowners are going to let you onto their property.

3:45AM PDT on Jun 4, 2012


11:46AM PDT on Jun 3, 2012

Hi glaikit,

I loved the Gibnut story.

2:41AM PDT on Jun 3, 2012

Heidi A. where on earth did you get the notion that Tilapia is a form of Carp??

Carp are various species of oily freshwater fish of the family Cyprinidae.

Tilapia is the common name for nearly a hundred species of cichlid fish from the tilapiine cichlid tribe.

Please note they are from different species completely.

2:02AM PDT on Jun 3, 2012

this is a very smart piece

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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
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