The Delicious, Invasive Species You'll Be Eating Next
You’ve heard of the locavore, but what about the invasivore? Whether it’s lionfish, which are ruining reefs in Mexico, or wild boar, tearing up California valleys, invasive species are the latest offering on menus around the world. After being accidentally introduced to local habitats, where most of them don’t have natural predators, these organisms multiply—often at a rapid pace—causing environmental stress, infrastructure harm, and even health problems. Pioneering chefs are taking sustainability one step further by working with foragers, fishermen, and hunters as a form of edible conservation. “I was looking to utilize ingredients that may not be mainstream,” says Taylor Naples of Craft New York. “Then I realized these items had great flavor.” Here’s a global guide to some of the animals, fish, and plants you might order next.
Wild Boar Bruschetta
The hogs, which are native to Europe and Asia, were first brought over by explorers to the U.S. in the 1700s. Eventually, they broke free from their owners and went feral, and now you’ll find them coast to coast. At Giorgio’s in Salinas, Calif., chef Alessio Giannuzzi serves his swine with tomato bruschetta and prosciutto he cures himself. Boar meat is dark and lean, packing a more intense flavor than cured ham, like a gamey version of regular pork. Giannuzzi also adds boar—a popular meat in Italy—to a ragout for pasta dishes such as pappardelle and lasagna.
The coastal cuisine served at Seamore’s, a new restaurant in downtown Manhattan, relies on many sea critters, including the dogfish—a “trash fish” that’s crowding parts of the Atlantic Ocean—and lionfish. You can order any of them in tacos, on blackened-fish sandwiches, or over seasonal salads. The restaurant collaborates with Dock to Dish, a new program in New York, Florida, and Boston that works with fishermen to get the freshest possible produce. Seamore’s gets its dogfish—which is technically a shark and tastes a bit like scallops but less chewy—from nearby Montauk, on Long Island.
Tambaqui Fish Ribs
Served at Sea Salt in Naples, Fla., these resemble baby-back ribs but are more tender. They come from Amazon Fish Co., which employs locals to catch the 200-pound beasts throughout Brazil.
Chef John Cox of Big Sur’s Post Ranch Inn dices and plates them with lemon and ginger. Left alone, the pests eat 10 times their weight daily and reproduce rapidly.
Fried Red Snapper
The Atlantic’s most well-known invader, it became big in the 1970s after fishing seasons were introduced. It has since gone global: The JW Marriott Khao Lak Resort & Spa in Phang Nga, Thailand, suggests dipping it into sweet-and-sour sauce.
Other Guilt-Free Meats
Sick of eating pork? There are several more exotic options. In Puerto Rico, kiosks sell iguana kebabs. In Fitzroy, Australia, Charcoal Lane offers a wild rabbit terrine. In Miami, several cooks are experimenting with Burmese python—the escaped pets are destroying the Everglades.