Students chow down on invasive species
By Amy Loeffler
Any species — be it flora, fauna, or bacteria — can be invasive by spreading and pushing out native organisms.
“Many invasive species can have a detrimental ecological and economic impact,” said Jacob Barney, an assistant professor of plant pathology, physiology, and weed science. “But at the same time, many of them are edible.”
The students in Barney’s Biological Invasive Species class proved these space invaders are actually downright tasty by cooking dishes made with invasive species and bringing them to an end-of-semester potluck.
The potluck featured a smorgasbord that included Italian sausage soup with meat harvested from feral hogs, a Japanese dessert made with kudzu powder, pesto made from garlic mustard, kangaroo chili, and fried catfish, all of which were consumed with gusto.
Daniel Steger, of Rochester, New York, a senior majoring in crop and soil environmental sciences, made Italian sausage soup with meat he harvested from a feral hog. Feral hogs are widely considered to be a nuisance from Texas to Florida because of their tendency to root for food and destroy agricultural crops.
“I learned that invasive species are not always a bad thing,” said Steger who regularly hunts feral hogs on managed land.
Even the much reviled kudzu plant has antioxidant properties, and in Japanese cuisine, kudzu powder is used as a thickening agent.
Though it’s not possible to erase invasive species through culinary endeavors, said Barney, his students have made a delicious dent.