10 Invasive Species You Can (and Should) Eat

www.discovermagazine.com
7 min read
fairly easy
From backyard weeds and vines to wild pigs and fish, the list of invasive species runs long. Adding these plants and creatures to your menu could help native ecosystems.
Does the sight of a bullfrog make your mouth water? Does the thought of a swamp rat make your stomach growl? The odds are probably low, but you may want to reconsider.

In the U.S., approximately 50,000 non-native species have been introduced to its lands and waters, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Of those, nearly 10 percent are considered invasive — meaning they likely cause harm to the environment, human health or the economy as they spread. These invaders, which often lack natural predators to keep them in check, cause an estimated $120 billion in economic costs each year, and it's likely to get worse from here. Regions everywhere are becoming warmer and more hospitable to invasive species, and a 2009 study found that the rise in trade and transport that accompanies globalization will only lead to more introductions in the future.

But this daunting eco-challenge has sparked culinary action in some circles: putting non-native plants and animals on our menus. The response could make a dent in invasive populations while inventing some fun, new meals too. Plenty of restaurants and food suppliers have already heeded the call. Here are a few suggestions to get you started.

1. Kudzu

(Credit: Sandra Burm/Shutterstock)

Kudzu (Pueraria montana) hails from Asia but was introduced to the U.S. at the 1876 Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia. For the better part of the next century, farmers cultivated the leafy vine en masse to feed livestock and reduce soil erosion. In fact, government agencies funded much of the effort and provided over 85 million seedlings. But a secret danger lurked in its aggressive growth.

Kudzu competes with native plant species, even entire trees, by smothering them from sunlight. And it didn't take long for the killer vine to outgrow the farmland where it was first cultivated. Currently, it's estimated that kudzu blankets more than 7 million acres throughout the Southeast and grows at a staggering rate of 1 foot per day —…
Marisa Sloan
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