Eat to save the planet? You don’t have to tell us twice.
Eating less meat is one change that is becoming increasingly popular, but eating the planet’s more destructive species – whether a plant, fish or animal – can still have a very positive effect on the environment. Here are some invasive species you can try:
1. Asian Shore Crab
Along the Atlantic intertidal coastline from Maine to North Carolina, this crab is now breeding and increasing rapidly in number. Because it tolerates a wide range of environmental conditions, it seems all too likely to continue to multiply and to spread. Because it is not a picky eater, it outcompetes native species such as crabs, fish, and shellfish for food–-or it eats them, being an opportunistic omnivore that feeds on algae, saltmarsh grass, larval and juvenile fish, and small invertebrates such as amphipods, gastropods, bivalves, barnacles, and worms.
2. Snakehead Fish
The Snakehead Fish is native to Asia and Africa, but they’ve been appearing in the waterways of Maryland and Florida for over a decade now. The long, eel-like fish is big enough to hunt fish like Bass and Perch. Whenever and wherever they appear, they run the show.
3. Asian Tiger Shrimp
Asian Tiger Shrimp were introduced to the United States when 2,000 of them were accidentally released from an aquaculture facility in South Carolina. Also known as “giant cannibal shrimp,” the Asian Tiger Shrimp is native to Asian and Australian waters, where they can grow up to 13 inches long.
Lionfish are beautiful, exotic-looking creatures. Unfortunately, they also boast hearty appetites that have severely harmed fish populations all across the Atlantic. Humans with hearty appetites will appreciate the fact that Lionfish are high in Omega 3 fatty acids (which help lower the risk of heart disease) and low in saturated fat.
5. Wild Boar
Wild Boars have roamed North America ever since Spanish explorers brought them over in the 1500s as domesticated animals. Not only are Wild Boars harmful to the crops they devour, but they’re also dangerous to humans. Wild Boars are known to be aggressive and charge at people, and they can do serious damage with their sharp tusks and teeth.
6. European Green Crab
Recently, with bounties in place from Martha’s Vineyard to Maine, chefs have been taking a second look at this invader. Rich Vellante, the executive chef of Legal Sea Foods in Boston, told the Boston Globe that green crab stock had a “pleasing ocean flavor.” He thought he could do something with it–and has started testing risotto and minestrone dishes.
7. Blue catfish
The Blue Catfish has become pervasive in the Chesapeake Bay. There they’ve expanded into every major tributary, eating many native fish along the way.
8. Prickly Pear
This fruit, rich in vitamin C, was one of the early cures for scurvy. Typically eaten without the thick outer skin, it tastes like juicy, very sweet watermelon.
Despite their attractive yellow color, these seemingly innocent flowers can be a real nuisance. Fortunately, they’re also a readily available food source that you can feel good about eating.
10. Rusty Crayfish
Rusty Crayfish are one of the tastiest and easiest invasive species to collect and bring home to the pot. Crayfish (also known in the south as Crawdads) look like a little Lobster. And they taste similar, too! They’re also significantly cheaper. Native to the Ohio River basin in the United States, it has been distributed to other areas around the country, most likely as unused bait released by fishermen. Invasive populations can be found throughout the upper-Midwest, particularly in Wisconsin, but populations have also been recorded from Colorado.
11. Asian Carp
These carp species are causing issues in the Mississippi river and surrounding waters. Asian carp are fast-growing and prolific feeders that out-compete native fish and leave a trail of environmental destruction in their wake. Asian carp is clean and consumes algae and plankton. It has high protein and low mercury because it does not consume other fishes. Many who have tasted the fish says it feels like tilapia or cod.
12. Sea Urchin
When you see a sea urchin, you probably don’t think that these spiny, scary-looking creatures are edible. But you’d be wrong! Sea urchin, usually called uni, is actually a delicacy in many parts of the world. It’s known for a creamy, buttery flavor and is usually eaten right out of the shell.
Why not head down to your local markets and try something new? Be sure to tag us on any photos of your masterpieces!