Eat your invasives
Harvesting and eating invasive plants may add a new dimension to “local foods.” Many invasive plants and animals started out as old world food that escaped from colonial gardens.
Many plants and animals that are considered noxious weeds or an invasive species started out as a desirable culinary or medicinal that escaped cultivation. These include: dandelions, plantain, garlic mustard, carp, hogs, etc. Some invasive introductions were the result of accidental releases such as the lion fish. Many are edible. According to Eat the Invaders & Invasivore there are quite a few invasive plants and animals that are not just edible but delicious as well.
For example, according to an article in the New Yorker, in some areas populations of lion fish are actually being controlled now that it has found a place on the menu in many eating establishments. Other items such as dandelion greens are now being harvested regularly and are commonly sold in spring salad mixes. Yet, many invasive species require hunting and harvesting on your own.
Enterprising people have come up with innovative ways to use invasive species. One local brewer in Minnesota used milfoil and zebra mussel in one of their beer recipes. Playing off a “use local ingredients” challenge at Grumpy’s Limited Action Beer Fest, they decided to use the invasive ingredients from Lake Minnetonka; and the beer sold out in seven days. This creative use of invasives is not for everyone though.
In Michigan you can hunt and harvest many invasive species. A word of caution, most animals require hunting licenses and must be taken in season. Check with the MDNR to verify what you can hunt and when. Also, know what you are harvesting and don’t accidently take native plants. In some areas transporting invasive plants to other parts of the state may be illegal. Make sure that if you are planning on using invasive plants or animals in your culinary dishes that you use every precaution to do so legally and to dispose of unused parts responsibly.
For more information about invasive aquatic plants contact me or find other educators through the MSU Extension Find an Expert search tool. To learn more about invasive organisms and invasive aquatic plants contact Michigan State University Extension Natural Resources educators who are working across Michigan to provide aquatic invasive species educational programming and assistance.