Goats are being called upon to eat away at invasive species. PHOTO Vassamon Anansukkasem/Shutterstock
Don’t Want to Eat the Invaders Yourself? Let the Goats Do It!
Goats are an inexpensive and potentially effective tool for managing some invasive plants. For example, the Chattanooga, Tennessee, Public Works Department turned goats loose on city-owned land to nosh on kudzu. Unlike cattle, which are selective foragers, goats are famous as indiscriminate eaters and will even graze on poison ivy. You don’t have to own the goats, either; you can rent them from grazing services across the country through Livestock for Landscapes.
Experts say there are legitimate concerns about invasivory, including creating a market for a particular plant. “If an invasive plant is especially tasty and it becomes all the rage to eat it, suddenly its economic lure outweighs its environmental harm,” Waitt explains. Inevitably, some entrepreneur will tire of driving around collecting in the wild and opt to grow the plant.
That is why eating invaders must be seen as an education and awareness tool rather than a management tool, Barnes says. “Keep the central message that the reason to eat these species is control and eradication. The more local the effort, the more realistic your chances for success in reducing the population.”
There are risks to wild harvesting as well, including encountering toxic or poisonous plants. Plants along roadways may have been sprayed with chemicals or coated in automotive exhaust. Harvesters could inadvertently contribute to spread of an invasive by transporting it or scattering remains.
Assuming you avoid these potential problems, which invaders are good to eat?
Barnes calls dandelions and purslane gateway invaders: common plants familiar to many. Dandelion leaves can be put in salads, the flowers fried or used to make wine. Purslane, a succulent, is good in stir fry.
According to the Institute for Applied Ecology, garlic mustard is extremely nutritious. It and bastard cabbage, another member of the mustard family, have slightly spicy leaves good in salads or pesto sauce. Use Himalayan blackberries in any dish with berries, such as pies, cobblers and smoothies. After picking leaves or berries, pull up the entire plant if possible.
Several cookbooks feature kudzu, which grows as much as three feet per day under optimum conditions. The leaves can be eaten raw like spinach, chopped up and baked in quiches, cooked like collards, or deep fried. Young shoots taste like snow peas, and blossoms can be used to make jelly, syrup and wine. Dry the large potato-like roots – full of protein, iron and fiber – and grind into a powder used to coat fried foods or to thicken sauces.
Boil the shoots of invasive phragmites or sauté with butter and salt like asparagus. Consult a local naturalist or a field guide to distinguish the native from the invader.
Ready to do your part? Let’s eat.
Roasted Phragmites Rhizomes
12 Phragmites rhizomes (6-8 inches long). Wash thoroughly, bake in oven at 350 degrees F for 25 to 30 minutes. Tastes like baked potato skins.
Recipe from the Virginia Institute of Marine Science
1/2 cup seeds of Phragmites, 2 cups boiling water. Collect a dozen or so seed heads. Remove the seeds and crush. Add to boiling water. Cover and cook slowly until a thin, red-colored gruel forms. Cool and eat. Milk and maple syrup compliment the dish.
Recipe from “They’re Cooked: Recipes to Combat Invasive Species“
Sorrel Smoked Salmon Puffs
1 bunch sorrel
1 lb. hot smoked salmon, flaked
1 lb. cream cheese, softened
60 mini cream puffs, split
Bring 1 gallon of salted water to a rolling boil. Blanch sorrel for a few seconds. Drain thoroughly. Combine wilted sorrel, salmon and cream cheese in a food processor fitted with the blade attachment. Pulse mixture until smooth. Correct as needed with lemon juice, hot sauce and/or salt. Pipe the filling into the puffs and chill.
Recipe by Chef Matt Bennett