Invasive species are a major problem the world over. They kill local plants and animals, clog streams, destroy habitats, and devastate anything natural in their path. Sometimes they were introduced for a purpose, sometimes they escaped into the wild â€” but they always cause trouble. However, there is sometimes one redeeming feature of the proliferation of an animal in a new environment â€” they can be crazy freaking delicious!
18. Japanese Knotweed
Japanese Knotweed has taken over large areas of the U.S.A. and Europe, mostly due to its strong interconnected root system and speed of growth. It can survive on almost any conditions, and the roots extend 3m into the soil, which makes it almost impossible to destroy. So what possible redeeming feature can this horrific weed actually have? Well, it can be used a source of nectar for honeybees, and anything that makes more honey is good in my books. Even more cool, the young stems taste like a mild rhubarb (without the whole toxic thing), and is a good source of resveratrol and emodin.
The Snakehead family of fish are particularly troublesome across the US and UK, due in part to their position at the top of the food chain â€” to put it bluntly, nothing eats them. Well, nothing but us. Snakehead can also survive out of water for up four days, assuming they stay damp, and can breath atmospheric oxygen. They’re known to travel up to a quarter-mile across land in order to colonize new bodies of water. They’re mean, hard to kill, and lucky for us, kinda tasty. Said to taste like chicken (but what doesn’t?), gut, skin and throw them on the grill, and you have a damn fine meal.
16. Grey Squirrel
Introduced from America to Europe, the larger and meaner gray squirrel swiftly out-muscled the local small red variant. While some call this “survival of the fittest”, others say it’s “damn yank bully-boys, at it again”. The UK now has very few of its native red squirrel population, and mainland Europe is now worried that the same might happen on their shores. However, grey squirrels have one undeniable advantage over the red variant â€” their greater bodyfat lets them survive winters better, and provides much tastier meat. You ever hear of marbling? A nice, fatty bit of squirrel makes for juicer, less gamey meat. Grab it right when its fattened up for hibernation, and straight into the stew it goes.
15. Silver and Common Carp
Silver carp were introduced to the USA in the 70s to try and control algae growth, and rapidly multiplied in their new environment, killing local species. They also have a habit of jumping out of the water, smacking unsuspecting water-goers in the face. Common carp breed fast, and survive by feeding through bottom sediment, which destroys local growth. This also severely alters populations further up the food chain that survive on these plants, as their food sources are diminished. Why should us gourmands be happy about carp? Look at that picture! You could feed a freaking African village on that fucking fish! Let em grow wild, and feed the world!
14. Nile Perch
Tastes like tilapia. Do we need to say more? Oh, I suppose. It’s African, and has a tendency to eat everything that moves â€” including its own species. Mature fish reach more than 120cm, and they’ve been introduced to a number of lakes around the continent. And they do eat anything! Insects, crustaceans, fish, probably you, if you’re not paying attention. Being at the top of the food chain does cause troubles, which is why we’re happy to make sure they never reach.
Oh, you don’t think we should eat swans? Yeah, well you weren’t kicking about in historic Europe, where they were the food of choice for the rich. Big, pretty, and chock full of meat, it was a staple of banquet halls across the continent. Eventually associated with Royalty, they weren’t allowed to be eaten by people who weren’t of royal blood or invitation. Now they’re protected in Europe, but in America they’re invasive. Due to their size and belligerent nature, they tend to force native fouls out of the area. They’re such badasses, they’ll kill ducks and geese they come across.
12. Green Crabs
People love eating crab. I’m not a huge fan, due to my blanket ban on eating anything with more than four limbs, but if you’re a fan of devouring sea bugs, then more power to you! Green crabs have been described as one of the 100 worst invasive species, as they’ve spread from their homes in the Atlantic to South Africa, Australia, South America and both coasts of North America. They catch rides on ships hulls, and manage to spread themselves pretty widely across the seas. They can live in almost any water conditions, and across a vast range of salinity levels. They females can lay 100,000s of eggs, and the animals will eat local small crustaceans and bivalves quite happily. Good thing they’re tasty!
11. Mozambique Tilapia
Ironically threatened in its native waters, the Mozambique tilapia is seen as a pest pretty much everywhere else on the planet. Being small, hardy and omnivorous makes it fairly easy for them to spread. They were brought to various parts of the world for sport fishing, they soon pulled Houdinis, and spread beyond control. The Mozambique tilapia is also well recognized for its potential for commercial fishing, due to its hardiness and ease of travel. They also account for around 4% of worldwide tilapia sales.
10. Red Deer
Venison. Venison, venison, delicious venison! Venison sausages, steaks and anything else. Native to Europe, and one of the largest deer species, red deer are a major problem in South America and New Zealand. They consume massive amounts of foliage, and often compete with local herbivores for tasty leaves and barks, or whatever they eat. I think we’re missing the point here â€” mammoth amounts of venison. Juicy, delicious, succulent venison. Hell, you can even sell their horn velvet to Asia as a traditional medicine. I know I’m just happier chomping through a venison burger.
9. Chinese Mitten Crab
Horribly invasive in Europe and the USA, it takes over rivers, destroying native crustaceans, blocking drainage, even moving in to swimming pools and pipes. Somehow they’ve been unable to establish themselves in the Great Lakes, despite having been introduced a number of times, they’ve overrun the Thames and Hudson worse than a Korean kid learning to play Zerg. Yet in their native China, they’re a delicacy, especially the roe. It’s chronically overfished (overcrabbed?) in the Yangtze, and a single crab from Lake Yangcheng can go for hundreds of Yuan (100 Yuan = $15) â€” and these things aren’t particularly large either, about the size of your palm. Huh, that sounds like a pretty good business proposal, seeing as you can charge a huge amount for a tiny, quickly breeding animal. Hell, I’m sure you could make a small fortune dredging the Hudson and selling them on to Chinatown.
8. Largemouth Bass
Darling of the sports fishing world, and highly prized for angling in the USA, the largemouth bass is a significant pest in UK, Europe, Russia, Middle East, North Africa, Continental US, Caribbean territories, South America, Asia, Southeast Asia, Hawai’i, Mauritius, Madagascar, Fiji, Guam, New Caledonia and the US Virgin Islands. It’s been rated one of the worst 100 invasive species due to its distinctively predatory nature, as it’ll happily munch on smaller fishes (and even smaller largemouth bass) until the native populations are all but destroyed.
7. Blue Mussel
Originating in the Mediterranean, the blue mussel is now found pretty much anywhere with a temperate climate and salt water. They foul ship hulls, and outcompete just about every other mussel on the planet â€” because they can breed up to 200% faster. Especially a problem in South Africa, they also grow in such density that pipes and drains can get badly blocked, not to mention the issue of hulls. However, clean em and steam em with some white wine Julia Childs style? Honestly, one of the most delicious meals imaginable. It only takes about 15 minutes to cook too, and you’re left with succulent mussels and a white wine sauce. Throw in some crusty bread, a chilled bottle of white wine, and you’re set!
6. Rainbow Trout
Last of the fish, I promise. The utterly delicious rainbow trout is heavily farmed and fished in the USA, and is considered a protected species due to dwindling numbers. However, it’s also a threat to other species due to being a walking STI. It is able to hybridize with a number of other species, effectively destroying their gene pool, and brings in a number of nasty diseases when it does so â€” most notably whirling disease, which screws up the fish’s ability to orient itself, leading them to swim in spirals until their spines fuck up.
The mallard, or wild duck, is another one of those critters whose major ecological impact is its breeding abilities â€” namely it shags everything ducklike (including the dead), until it breeds out all the competition through hybridisation and just generally pumping out baby ducks. They also carry a rather nasty version of bird flu which is particularly bad for fowl, if not us â€” HAPIV. They also have explosive corkscrew penises. Ducks are screwed up, yo. But, for all that, I have three words for you: duck breast prosciutto. Apparently ludicrously easy to make at home, and mouth wateringly delicate, it’s a food of the gods.
4. Feral Cows
Wait, cows? Yup, it turns out they can go feral, and cause major problems. Primarily a problem in the Pacific Islands, but also Ecuador and the Caymans, these critters have a tendency to escape from ranchers, and start destroying native fauna. Due to their large appetites, they eat a huge amount of foliage, which many small islands just aren’t equipped to handle losing. They eat faster than plants can regrow, causing major issues with loss of habitat for other species, as well as killing off native bush. I’m sure by now, we can all imagine a handy way to deal with this problem. Steak, roast beef, prime ribs. Hell, just give me the entire beast and a large freezer, and I’ll figure out a way to get through it.
3. Wild Boar
If there’s one thing that a childhood of reading Asterix has taught me, it’s that wild boar must be the world’s most delicious animal. Generally called a Razorback in the USA, wild boars roamed Europe, Asia and North Africa prior to being introduced to the USA, Papua New Guinea and Australia. Because they root for food, they can cause significant ecological and property damage, destroying plants, property, seeds, and anything else that is in the ground. They destroy commercial crops and native species equally, and as omnivores, they’ve just about eaten to death tortoise and sea turtle populations in Ecuador. Time to go boar hunting, I think. If you’re a real man, you do it medieval styles, with just a giant fuckoff spear. If you’re Obelix level, do it barehanded.
The scourge of Australia and New Zealand, rabbits destroy native wildlife through excessive grazing and burrowing. You ever heard the term “fucking like rabbits”? That’s because these wee bastards breed at a prodigious rate, making them just about impossible to control. They’re present on every continent except Antarctica and Asia, and are major pests in some areas. Hell, in parts of NZ, they celebrate Easter by going bunny hunting. But, as Samwise Gamgee says, “there’s only one way to eat a brace of coneys”, and that’s rabbit stew. I’d have to disagree with Master Samwise there, as rabbit is amazing roasted, grilled, or just about anything else. I recently had a really good pulled rabbit sandwich!
Goats were left on islands throughout the seven seas, as food sources for colonists, sailors, and shipwrecks. They were ideal for this, because they’re extremely hardy, can survive on just about any terrain, and will eat just about any plant on the planet. Of course, when these islands were seeded, no one gave a crap about native flora and fauna, and the potential impact of these introduced species on the local ecosystem â€” they were more concerned with getting some food if they were ever shipwrecked. Said goats have nom-nom-nomed their way through many a native biosphere. However, their milk is delicious, feta is freaking amazing, and goat meat can be sublime. Seriously, go to a good Greek place, and just see what they can do with goat meat, and your mind will be blown. Throw in some North African cooking too, and some Middle Eastern? Hell, you can make an awesome curry from it to! Goat meat is flexible, and hell of a delicious. Frankly, I’d be happy to spend the rest of my days removing these pests from the world, via my digestive tract.