Jan 24, 2009

The Invasive Species Diet

Diet is huge in ecology. Predators, prey, produce. Diet is huge in ecological lifestyles. Slow food, local food, organic food, vegetarian food. I like all these movements and count myself an adherent of each to some degree. I’m personally most committed to vegetarianism, which is as much a spiritual expression of my devotion to animals as an ecologically motivated lifestyle. Whatever moves you, right?

I have a wicked, smart friend who's largely motivated by ecological concerns. He loves all creatures but he likes to eat meat. Luke refers us to the ecological diet, which draws mostly from localism and slow food. Rez, another friend of mine, questioned the wisdom of his vegetarianism when living in Scandinavia, where he had to eat shipped, processed protein out of packages because you just cannot grow the grains and veggies to sustain yourself all year. Yeah, you’re not going to find me telling Norwegians that they should be vegan because that’s probably not sustainable on a mass scale. You also won’t find this snowophobe in Scandinavia or any other place that’s going to force me to choose sustainability or vegetarianism. I’d be in constant conflict with myself.

In California, vegetarianism is logical, and more sensible than wasting water on alfalfa and irrigated pasture. I think by the time I get back to the bounty of California, I’ll be well over apples and carrots, ready for some GRAPES. In other words, Cali's a great place to be a vegetarian locavore.

When I think of the conditions under which I’d eat meat, I always return to game. Like most southern tomboys, I’ve been deer hunting, squirrel hunting, frogging, and fishing. I’ve skinned, scaled, and gutted my dinner. Under the tutelage of my dad and grandpa, this was easy as a youth. I have no regrets. Those animals lived free and died under somewhat natural predator-prey interactions. We ate the meat. I don’t like the deer head on my daddy’s wall. I hate the hooves that hold his gun. Trophies are weird. But yeah, hunting for meat, particularly the invasive white-tailed deer in the South, well that’s ok with me.

Ok, this is a long, evasive pre-amble to a new dietary fad that I’m advocating. Take it with a grain of local salt and note the disclaimer below.

The invasive species diet is a new ecological diet for those who want to bioremediate at dinner. You can do this as a vegetarian or omnivore, depending on your tastes. Luke inspired this brainwave with all his chatter about the ecological diet. Hell, if you want to eat for the environment, I’m suggesting you really get into it.

Eat weeds.

Blake was munching on nasturtium on New Years Day and you should too (if you’re in SF). I also recommend radish seeds (above the dog urine line), and fennel for cooking. If you can devise a recipe for French broom, you’re my hero. I'd derive such satisfaction from chopping it up and eating it after wrenching those taproots out of the ground. Think kudzu could be integrated into traditional southern delicacies? Has it ever been fried? Ideas for Rhodedendron?

Ok, for sure, not all invasives are actually edible. I'd be warry of putting something as evil as ehrharta into my body. I’d steer clear of advising people to eat Cape Ivy since it’s so easy to spread and this diet is truly about being a responsible consumer. And don’t sample the hemlock in SF either. It’s definitely poisonous. In fact, do your own research into what’s edible. And don’t plant weeds to eat them. Harvest them responsibly where they already exist instead. For instance, I’d leave some of even the Himalayan blackberries for the birds of SF.

And yeah, there are weedy animals out there … I’m sure this is going to be popular. When I was a kid, we had the tail of a grey squirrel in the kitchen drawer. Trophies are weird, but the point is, those critters are edible, and highly invasive in the UK. I’m not sure how you’d kill one in London as shooting them is out of the question in such a densely populated area, but get creative and humane. They’re chunky over here too, much more meat than in the southeast of the US. And the pigeons here look like chickens, maybe they’re not too diseased to eat? Then there are the goats of Wales. White tailed deer in large swaths of the US. Zebra mussels anyone? Pigs on nearly any island.

I’m almost serious here. Eat for the environment. Eat locally. Eat wild meat. Eat for habitat.
Eat invasive.

***** Do your own research. These plants and animals may not be invasive in your region, in which case, you shouldn’t eat them. They may kill you. Don’t consume the specifics of this piece: it’s an idea, not a menu. *******


Anonymous said...

Nice site you have here..
Thanks for the info..I'll use this a lot

Julia said...

I agree. You're a clear, concise writer with interesting thoughts. Keep it coming!

Natalie said...

Love this post! Well written, funny, and smacking of truth. I hope you don't mind, I posted it on my blog (comments) and it has started a discussion there as well...

rachel kesel said...

right on natalie. i'm glad you get it and don't want to carve me up for dinner for suggesting that we eat those squirrels!

Natalie said...

LOL! Nope, I don't - but I know people who would! There are all sorts of crazies out there. ;-) Talk about invasive species....

devinv said...

french broom makes great bows, as in bows and arrows.

Unknown said...

Great post! Please add to the Menu Myocastor coypus or or Nutria, or coypoi or better known as swamp rat. These plant eating rascals destroy 120,000 acres of wetlands in Lousiana, Texas, Oregon, and WA each year. They taste like rabbit and are free range. and if you catch enough their pelts have ultra fine fur. check out http://www.ideastream.org/news/npr/132214288 Eat Nutria save the wetlands.

Amy Thielen said...

Believe it or not, rusty crayfish are invasive in the upper midwest. And, they are the biggest and tastiest crayfish out there. (Scandinavians imported them to repopulate their crayfish back in the 1980's or '90's.) I wrote about them 3 years ago and I haven't noticed people eating any more of them. And my own crayfish boils are not making a dent.
If you have any ideas for this, let me know.

Russ Cohen said...

Folks interested in some tasty recipes utilizing the highly-invasive Japanese Knotweed might like to try one (or more) of the recipes posted here: