• Outdoors Outdoors

Community holds wild cook-off event, centering invasive species on the menu — here's why

"This event and events like it bring a very eclectic mix of community members together."

"This event and events like it bring a very eclectic mix of community members together."

Photo Credit: iStock

The Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks is hosting a Wild Foods Cook-Off Competition this June, encouraging people to forage, eat locally, and center invasive plant and animal species on their menus, KSNT reported

The last iteration of the event attracted between 250 and 300 attendees. The organizers said that they expect as many people "if not more, especially as we're planning more in advance this time around."

The event's popularity has led the department to make it biannual, with one cook-off in the summer and one in the fall.

The fact that so many people seem interested in cooking with locally sourced food and invasive species is a good thing for the community and for our planet.

Contestants at the Cook-Off will compete in six categories: Wild Game, Wild Fish, Wild Plants, Wild Mushrooms, Wild Sweets, and Wild Invasive/Nuisance Species.

Many of the foods in those categories (excluding Wild Game and Wild Fish) can be foraged. Foraging for food can be a great way to get out in nature, save money on groceries, and reduce your reliance on the food industry, which creates a lot of planet-overheating air pollution by transporting food. 

According to some calculations, a pound of transported food creates 0.18 pounds of carbon pollution — and the more distance the food travels, the more air pollution it creates. Foraging in your backyard creates no air pollution and is delicious and rewarding to boot.

Cooking with invasive and/or nuisance species is similarly rewarding and helpful to the environment. Invasive species can wreak havoc on an ecosystem, outcompeting native species for food and resources and upsetting the delicate balance. This has consequences for all the plants and animals in the area.

🗣️ Which sustainable cooking change are you most interested in trying?

🔘 Reducing my food waste 🗑️

🔘 Eating more plant-based foods 🥕

🔘 Using high-tech kitchen tools 🍳

🔘 Not interested 🚫

🗳️ Click your choice to see results and speak your mind

Many ecologists recommend eating more invasive species to help control their populations. The invasive/nuisance species in Kansas that qualify for use in the Cook-Off include garlic mustard, white perch, Asian carp, autumn olive, and more.

"What I really love is how this event and events like it bring a very eclectic mix of community members together," Amy Bousman, KDWP's KC District Education Specialist, told KSNT. "You get your very traditional hunters who are rural-based, urban community members who care about sustainability and the planet and you get a very diverse mix between those extremes."

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