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Experts are urging people to hunt these species and eat them: 'It's important to know exactly what you're harvesting'

There has been success with other programs to bring these species to our menus.

There has been success with other programs to bring these species to our menus.

Photo Credit: iStock

One initiative is serving up a tasty solution for people who want to help their local ecosystems. 

In February, the Michigan State University Extension published a report by Michigan Sea Grant, a cooperative program focused on the conservation and use of resources in the Great Lakes, which contain around one-fifth of the planet's fresh surface water. 

In the article, the grant makes the case that foraging could help reduce invasive species' negative impact on the environment and perhaps prevent the need for harmful chemical methods of pest control.  

Plants and animals can be introduced to new areas intentionally or accidentally. When they are, they often cause problematic disruptions to the protective balance of the system, outcompeting native species that keep things operating as they should. 

According to one study, invasives cause nearly $20 billion in damages in the United States every year, with agriculture being the most severely impacted sector. 

While foraging for invasives may seem like a solution out of left field, there has been success with programs to bring these species to our menus. 

Some restaurants, for example, have been introducing wild boar to Americans with the help of their providers and the Department of Agriculture, which has inspection facilities to ensure the safety of the product.

Michigan Sea Grant calls out red swamp crayfish for their aggressiveness and role in potentially spreading disease and parasites to other creatures, but it also notes that they are a delicious component in recipes such as gumbo and bisque. 

Other suggested dining options include carp and narrow-leaved cattails steamed in butter, with the program noting that "all parts of this plant are edible" if harvested correctly.

However, as with the consumption of wild boar, foraging also requires a focus on safety and responsibility, as detailed by the grant, whose partners are the University of Michigan, Michigan State University, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. 

"It's important to know exactly what you're harvesting before you eat it," the program points out, passing along identification resources from the MSU Extension, including the Don't Pick Poison guide for wild mushrooms and the Will Forage for Food event schedule.   

"Making sure that you don't accidentally spread invasive species in the process of harvesting them is essential, too: whatever you take should be securely contained and disposed of properly, and you should be certain that you aren't spreading seeds from your basket, on your clothes, or on the soles of your shoes," the article noted.

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