Jose Antao

March 23, 2013


I have recently learned about your “Eat the Invaders” initiative and was delighted to see how it seems to be working. I had myself flirted with the idea of doing something along those lines, and I have assembled a list of invasive exotic plant species in Portugal, with data on their edibility and potential medicinal uses. Not a lot of them are clear gourmet material, but I will give some of those a try (also, Portugal has less of an invasive species abundance on offer than the USA).

Having lived in the US for nearly 9 years (Boston), I got acquainted with some of the ecological issues in the country, and one of the items I was fascinated with was the problem with sea lamprey in the Great Lakes. Sea lamprey (Petromyzon marinus) is a regional specialty in the north of Portugal, where its scarcity makes the prices soar to pretty high values, especially considering the economic reality here. It is also very tasty. It made me wonder why nobody seems to be eating them there. Do you have any idea about that? Could it be that there’s something about the environmental conditions around there that make them less suitable for eating, or is it that people dread the animal?

I would be happy to start an import route from the US into here. Thank you for your work and good luck for the project(s).

ETI responds: Thank you for your note. I suspect the reason we don’t eat lampreys is purely cultural. Our parents didn’t eat them, so neither do we. That having been said, I’d be happy to work with you on this. We have lampreys here in Vermont (that may be native, as it turns out). But the government uses poisons to kill them–to protect more highly valued game fish. The poison kills the lampreys and rare native salamanders. A bad deal all around.

Yes, it was my impression as well that lamprey control is done mostly through poisoning. And it does sound like a bad deal. As for cultural issues around eating them, that’s probably the same with every invader. One way around it could be to catch the fish and sell it in the portuguese communities in New England (New Bedford, Fall River, Providence, Newark, etc).

Let me add to my earlier note that lamprey is not eaten exclusively in Portugal. I’m more familiar with it here, but it is also found at
least in Spain and France as well. It can be cooked fresh or it can be canned. Here are a couple of examples from French online stores:
Millesimes Gourmet
As you can see, the price is not unattractive.

You can also find some ecological and nutritional information about the lamprey in this short presentation.

It’s possible that, being a very fatty fish, there are some concerns with the accumulation of mercury and certain fat-soluble water pollutants.

More information on sea lampreys in the Great Lakes.

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Wild Pig

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Garlic Mustard

  Alliaria petiolata Native range: Europe, Asia, Northwest Africa Invasive range: Much of the Lower 48, Alaska, and Canada. (See map.) Habitat: Moist, shaded soil of floodplains, forests, roadsides, edges of woods, and forest openings. Often dominant in disturbed areas. Description: Biennial herb. First-year plant has a rosette of green leaves close to the ground. […]

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Prickly Pear

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Sow Thistle

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Asian Shore Crab

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The common periwinkle, which first appeared in New England in the 1860s, is now found along the coast wherever there’s hard substrate–rocks, riprap, broken concrete, or docks–from Labrador to . . .

Pterois volitans


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  Undaria pinnatifida Native range: Japan Sea Invasive range: Southern California, San Francisco Bay, New Zealand, Australia, Europe, Argentina Habitat: Opportunistic seaweed, can be found on hard substrates including rocky reefs, pylons, buoys, boat hulls, and abalone and bivalve shells. Description: Golden brown seaweed, growing up to nine feet. Forms thick canopy. Reproductive sporophyll in […]


Green Crab

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Armored Catfish Meatballs (1)

Armored Catfish

The armored catfish is abundant and destructive in Florida, Texas, and Mexico. Cast your nets for these flavorful natives of the Amazon. Scientific name: Two types have become established in North America: armadillo del rio, Hypostomus plecostomus, and sailfin catfishes in genus Pterygoplichthys Native range: Amazon River Basin Invasive range: Texas, Florida, and Hawaii; also […]

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Common Carp

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  Nasturtium officianale Native Range: Northern Africa, Europe, temperate Asia, and India Invasive Range: In USA: all lower 48 states, except North Dakota. Found in Alaska, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands. Also southern Canada, Sub-Saharan Africa, South America, Australasia, and parts of tropical Asia. Habitat: Common along stream margins, ditches, and other areas with […]



  There are numerous invasive crayfish. We include details for the red swamp crayfish (Procambarus clarkii) and the rusty crayfish (Orenectes rusticus). The same recipes can be used for both species–and many other invasive crayfish. Red Swamp Crayfish Native range: Known as Louisiana crayfish, crawdad, and mudbug, Procambarus clarkii is native to the south central […]



Nutria, also known as coypu and river rat, is native to temperate and subtropical South America. It has been introduced to Europe, Asia, and Africa, mainly for fur farming. These voracious. . .


Field Notes

Digital StillCamera

Can We Eliminate Invasive Species by Eating Them?

On restaurant menus across New England, green crabs are showing up in everything from bouillabaisse and bisques to croquettes and crudo. Read about it in Salon.


Radio Health Journal

Can adding invasives to your diet help the environment and your health? Listen to Radio Health Journal here.

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Qui veut manger des espèces invasives ?

Joe Roman chats with Camille Crosnier about eating invasives on France Inter. Listen here. In French.

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Berlin’s Invasive Species Cuisine

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Rack of Squirrel, Anyone?

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The carrot of convivial gastronomic pleasure is more persuasive than the stick of food scarcity.

David E. Cooper in the Times Literary Supplement

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