Flashback Blog: Cooking Up Aliens

This week’s Flashback Blog was written in 2016 by Eli D., a Brookies and Ursids alumni. Eli recently graduated from Penn State with a degree in Wildlife Technology and Forestry. Eli works as a Forest Resources Supervisor where he runs an invasive plant management program. He is actively engaged with multiple conservation organizations including the Appalachian Audubon and the Central PA Conservancy. Throughout this throwback blog, Eli shares his thoughts on the prevalence of invasive species…as well as a practical application of the adage “If you can’t beat ’em…eat ’em!”

Of all the issues that face our natural resources today, none can claim to have done more damage than invasive species. Invasives come in many forms and are all nonnative with destructive tendencies.  From the feral swine of the South to the garlic mustard-infested woodlots of suburbia, we are surrounded by alien flora and fauna. Sadly, there isn’t a lot that we can do to stop the invasion, but we can make the most of it. My favorite way of dealing with invasive only takes a bit of culinary creativity and an open mind.

Since many invasive species were introduced by people for consumption, a surprising number of invasive are not only edible but also delectable. Invasive species introduced for food include garlic mustard, wineberry, and feral swine. All of these species are very tasty. I have personally tasted them all in various forms. Garlic mustard makes for a wonderful salad and is easily harvested in the springtime. Wineberry is common in many woodlands and ripens in mid-summer making for a sweet summertime treat. And, feral swine is very amazing in a stew.

Some of my other “favorite” invaders include Brown Trout and Rusty Crayfish. Here are my favorite recipes for each of them:

Pan-Fried “Brownies”

(fisherman approved, healthy meal)

Ingredients: two boneless brown trout fillets, one egg, bread crumbs, Old Bay ©, and olive oil.

Procedure: Egg wash the fillets, then coat with bread crumbs. Then fry trout in a pan of olive oil until flakey. The outside of the trout should get a golden semi-crisp coating. Serve up on a plate with fried potatoes and stewed tomatoes. Sweet tea or root beer compliments this meal nicely.

Crawfish and Corn Soup 

(approved by the Camp Hill cooking elite)

Ingredients:  ½ cup butter, 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour, 1 medium chopped onion, ¼ cup of chopped green onion, 4 cups of milk, 2-15 oz. cans cream-style corn, 1-15 oz. can whole kernel corn, 10.75 oz. can of condensed cream of potato soup, ¼ teaspoon of creole seasoning, ½ teaspoon of Worcestershire sauce, 1 dash of hot sauce, salt, and 1 pound of crawfish meat.

Procedure:  Mix butter and flour into a light roux in a big pot over low heat. Stir continuously for 5 minutes. Next, add the onions and cook till wilted. Then add everything except the crawfish. Cook for 20 minutes, add crawfish and cook for an additional 20 minutes.

While you certainly don’t have to make a hobby out of cooking up aliens as I have, I would encourage you to think outside the box when it comes to your palate. Invasive species are abundant, delicious, and a wonderful way to bring adventure into your kitchen.