Invasive Species Banquet: If You Can't Beat 'Em, Eat 'Em

Dec 8, 2015

Students at Virginia Tech are getting a real taste of what it’s like to deal with invasive species.  Once they’re established, it’s almost impossible to eradicate them, but as we hear in this report, some are saying, ‘If you can’t beat ‘em.  Eat ‘em.

“OK most creative: We have a tie for second …”

Assistant professor of invasive plant pathology, Jacob Barney is announcing the winners at this invasive species potluck.

“And we have the crawfish cornbread.  But the clear favorite was the ice cream.”

Steve Haring is a first year master’s student in weed science weed science.

“I made ice cream out of hemp milk, buckthorn, honey and poppy seeds.

A recipe for Bratwurst by Logan Holland, a senior, studying crop and soil sciences, is made with wild Alaskan Caribou.

“And the problem is they were original brought by humans from the mainland of Alaska to some of the Aleutian Islands for recreational purposes of the naval personnel back in the 1950s and once the navy personnel left the area, there were no natural predators or hunting of these Caribou and as a result they have grown and reproduced at such a rate that they’re spreading to other islands in the Aleutian Islands.”

And you can’t talk about invasives without including Kudzu, well established in the south. Elizabeth Gray made Chinese dumplings with Kudzu powder.

“Kudzu powder is pretty expensive so that it could be an industry because the Japanese turn it into that and they harvest the roots and make it into this starch. So you could have an industry of people in the U.S. making this for gluten free people and vegetarians, vegan people.

And there’s a catch phrase that’s catching on in a small but growing movement of people hoping to eat their way out invasive of the exotic species problem.

“It’s eradication by mastication.”

Professor Barney says every bite you can take out of invasives helps, but once they get a foothold, they’re pretty much part of the landscape after that.

One of the things we focus on in the class is that eradication is really only feasible for very small populations when they’re just getting started, however, we almost never find them at that stage and so when they get to be as common as Kudzu or Johnson grass, they’re so far gone we’ll never reign them back in.  They will forever be here so we try to learn from our mistakes and prevent the next Kudzu from being introduced.

Creating recipes featuring invasive species is one way to really digest the classwork. To borrow a phrase from the game hunting crowd, this class eats what it studies.

For recipes and information, click here.