By Leslie Hatfield
[Originally posted at Ecocentric on July 13, 2011]
Asian carp ceviche demonstrates that eating invasive species can be a wonderful culinary experience.
Last week, I attended an event at New York City’s famous James Beard House that took me back to Yellowstone National Park.
Around this time last summer, I was on a tour boat on Lake Yellowstone with my family, where we learned that lake trout, a non-native species introduced around 1995 (presumably by an angler), had grown extremely problematic for the ecosystem of the lake – in particular, for the prized cutthroat trout, which is easily preyed upon and out-competed by the larger lake trout.
Not only was there no fishing limit on lake trout but in fact, the only rule about catching them was that if you weren’t going to eat them, you had to kill them before throwing them back. According to our tour guide, you could cart a fresh-caught lake trout to any of the park’s restaurants for professional cooking and earn a pat on the back from the chef and staff.
“Welcome to the invasive species smorgasbord! Let’s eat them before they eat us.”
Why did my visit to the Manhattan-based James Beard House inspire me to recall that ecological factoid from my visit to the nation’s oldest national park? Last Wednesday night, Kerry Heffernan, head chef for Central Park’s South Gate Restaurant, prepared a delectable feast based on four exotic invasive varieties of seafood: green crab (known to most fisherfolk as bait for blackfish), Asian carp, lionfish and blue tilapia.
The brainchild behind the event was Washington, D.C.- based Food & Water Watch, producers of the Smart Seafood Guide. In partnership with James Beard House, the watchdog organization had invited Chef Kerry to prepare the invasives Iron Chef-style — with a little more than a day’s notice. This isn’t much time to get acquainted with the four exotic new ingredients, but Heffernan managed the challenge admirably, at least, according to this amateur seafood lover. Read the full article…