Invasion of the invasivors
When consumers exhibit courage — I am inspired. When corporations stretch their technological boundaries — I rejoice. When a single voice is heard above the din of the background — I close my eyes, exhale, and relax into a moment of glee.
We are on the precipice of cool.
Right now, the media is being quietly peppered with stories of invasivor consumption (eating invasive, destructive species). And make no mistake; these stories could easily be dismissed, cast to the shadows. But it would be in error.
Will this trend weather the storm for years? Perhaps not, but that does not mean it won't be impactful ... which is more than most trends can say. A more likely path for the invasivor trend would be for it to continue as a 'Redirect." A Redirected trend is one that makes a big splash at first but eventually downsizes and redirects toward its intended, or in this case, core/dedicated audience. Consider its birth. And yes, a trend is born, lives, and can die.
Although most consumers have an ick factor when it comes to trends such as entomophagy (insect eating), invasivors potentially come with soft fur, cute ears, or an adorable face. Unlike insects, who are probably going about their normal day when they were snatched up for someone's lunch, invasivors were not invited and are destructive to other species or habitat they have encroached upon. Another difference is that they can be animal or plant.
They include Lionfish, Asian Carp — also called Kentucky Tuna, feral pigs, pigeons, starlings, bullfrogs, crawfish, field mustard, kudzu, burdock and Japanese Knotweed. These invaders are all edible and some are considered delicacies in their motherlands. "Eradication by Mastication" is one of the terms used by practitioners. The exercise of eating invasivors exists to maintain ecosystem health.
Invasivore.org is a site that tracks news about the invasivor trend and delivers advice on controlling invasive species by dining on them. The real goal of the site is to help people understand invasive species a little better and bring attention to their influences on their surroundings. In Oregon each summer is the annual Invasive Species Cook-Off where local chefs compete to create their invasivor masterpieces. Some invasive species however cannot be consumed as a way to get rid of them. They python which has invaded Florida, for example cannot be eaten because python flesh accumulates mercury at levels two times the limits considered safe for consumption by the state of Florida.
In the Louisiana bayous, Asian carp is among America's hottest new invasives often called the "Silverfin Craze." Asian carp are mild-flavored white fish and there are millions choking the Mississippi River. The carp are turning up in the nets of commercial fishermen instead of the native species they seek, but until now there was no market for them. But they are a boney fish which are not appealing to Americans and so are being used for fish oil, fish meal and bone meal to be used in animal feed.
And for those wanting to rid areas of invasive plants try eating lamb's quarters, wild fennel, wakame, garlic mustard, periwinkle, or burdock. Invasive plants are non-native species that can thrive in locations beyond their native territory. These plants are adaptable, aggressive, and have a high reproductive rate. According to the Land Management Bureau, millions of acres of once-healthy, productive rangelands, forestlands and farm areas have been overrun by invasive plants. They destroy wildlife habitat, displace threatened and endangered species, decrease plant and animal diversity because they choke out all other plant species in an area, and disrupt waterfowl and migratory bird flight patterns and nesting habitats.
It is no coincidence that this trend materialized alongside others such as foraging and entomophagy (insect eating), although each comes from a different parent. Foraging is a morph off the "local" trend, invasivor consumption is tied to sustainability, and entomophagy is tied to sustainability and health. Invasivor consumption is motivated by the desire to preserve native plant or animal species. So while the invasivor and entomophagy trends are tied to sustainability, their birth structures are quite different and therefore their lifecycles will follow separate paths. To carry it one step further, all three trends will spawn separate support structures and attract different "groupies."
In the end, their existence signals a resurgence in consumer confidence, courage, experimentation, risk taking, exploration, whimsy, vision and imagination. These consumer behaviors are exactly what should be encouraged to pull them out of the economic doldrums. So, if consumers are starting to smile and having a bit of fun again, I suggest we follow suit. Self-fulfilling prophecies are not always a bad thing.
Suzy Badaracco Suzy Badaracco is a toxicologist, chef, and registered dietitian. She holds a Bachelors of Science degree in Criminalistics, an Associates degree in Culinary Arts, and a Masters of Science degree in Human Nutrition. www