Across America, feral pigs are on the rampage, wrecking fields of crops, hunting local wildlife to extinction, and even attacking humans. In the United Kingdom, Japanese knotweed is taking over the landscape: banks deny mortgages to infested properties, and the government regulates its disposal with the same precautions it takes for low-level nuclear waste. Humans are to blame—we introduced invasive species such as these to their new homes. But some conservation biologists and chefs think humans can also be the solution: by eating the invaders. Are we ready for a menu of Asian shore crab and bullfrogs—and can our appetite really make a difference, or might the approach lead to unforeseen consequences? This episode, we forage an invasive menu with chef Bun Lai, and then argue the case with conservation biologists Joe Roman and Sara Kuebbing. Listen in now!
Bun Lai foraging for invasive garlic mustard and other salad leaves as Cynthia records. Photo by Nicola Twilley.
Bun Lai is the chef and owner of Miya's Sushi, in New Haven, Connecticut, and one of the chefs at the forefront of both the sustainable sushi movement and the effort to include invasives in our diets. Bun's food is both thoughtful and truly delicious—but, if you want to check Miya's Sushi out, you only have a year to do so! We recently read the news that he plans to close by the end of 2020, to move onto new projects. Of course, we wish him the best of luck, but we also wish all of you a taste of his cooking. If you are ever in the neighborhood, we recommend it!
Wild boar sushi with a side of cannonball jellyfish, prepared by chef Bun Lai. Photo by Nicola Twilley.
Sara Kuebbing is a conservation biologist at the University of Pittsburgh who studies the ways in which nonnative, invasive plants interact with native plant species within an ecosystem. She co-authored an Ensia opinion piece titled "Why Eating Invasive Species is a Bad Idea."
Joe Roman is a conservation biologist at the University of Vermont. He was perhaps the earliest promoter of the movement to eat invasive species, as well as the most prominent. His Eat the Invaders website is a great source of information on the topic (this link about when different species were introduced into the US is fascinating!), and it's the perfect place to look for edible invasives that might be growing in your neighborhood.
Bun Lai, Cynthia Graber, and Bun's knotweed vinegar. Photo by Nicola Twilley.
Anders Halverson's An Entirely Synthetic Fish
In the episode, Nicky mentions her favorite invasive story, which involves rivers being aerially bombarded with rainbow trout. Author Anders Halverson tells the incredible tale of the rainbow trout's human-assisted takeover and its disastrous consequences in his book, An Entirely Synthetic Fish: How Rainbow Trout Beguiled America and Overran the World—it's a fascinating read.
Click here for a transcript of the show. Please note that the transcript is provided as a courtesy and may contain errors