Gobbling Up the Invaders

Blackberry pie. Frog legs. Ravioli. It’s the makings of a delicious meal, but there’s a twist – each dish is made from species invasive to Oregon. On August 25, the Institute for Applied Ecology (IAE) will throw their second Invasive Species Cook-off, part of its “Eradication by Mastication” campaign. Co-sponsored by the Oregon Invasive Species Council, the cook-off will take place at Chintimini Farm in Philomath, where professional chef Matt Bennett will prepare creative combos out of local invasives. A few items on the menu are wild turkey, bull frogs, feral pig and dandelion greens.

Delicious Cajun bull frog legs; photo courtesy of Institute of Applied Ecology.

Delicious Cajun bull frog legs; photo courtesy of the Institute for Applied Ecology.

Another facet of the entertainment is a competitive cook-off between local chefs, an invasive species version of Top Chef. Each chef will start with the same set of ingredients, including feral pig and blackberries, the challenge being to create a compelling dish that tops the others.

Last year, IAE Director Tom Kaye says he concocted a dish of his own – invasive bull frog legs from bull frogs that he caught himself in the E.E. Wilson Wildlife Area. Some of his favorites from the last event were wild turkey ravioli and pulled nutria, which he says is a lot like pulled pork. “Nutria have been adopted into the culinary arts of various restaurants in the South, and a bunch of Southern chefs have gotten into it,” Kaye explains.

As a fundraiser for the IAE, the cook-off is all part of the larger ecological message that invasive species are harmful outside of their native terrain. By making unusual meals out of these species, more people can become acquainted with their presence in Oregon, as well as how to keep them out of our state.

Invasive blackberry pie; photo courtesy of the Institute for Applied Ecology.

Invasive blackberry pie; photo courtesy of the Institute for Applied Ecology.

“Trying to get rid of invasives by eating them is really tongue in cheek, but it does literally bring people to the table to talk about the issue,” Kaye says. “It’s very serious business, but there’s no reason we can’t engage a greater proportion of the public by finding the fun and humor in it.”

Tickets are almost sold out, so act fast if you want to attend. For more information and to purchase tickets, visit the Eradication by Mastication website.

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