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Are Invasive Species the new Culinary Hype?

The invasive-ingredients movement is taking off in kitchens in Hawai'i and across the world.

Cute as they may be, pigs and deer have stirred up trouble in the delicately balanced ecology of our isles.

Tourists may love them, but locals in-the-know loathe them. So when eco-minded entrepreneurs decided to turn the problem into a sustainable solution, their efforts were warmly welcomed!

Eliminating Hawai'i’s hoofed invaders through environmentally-friendly hunting practices, small businesses like family-run Maui Nui Venison popped up, offering wild-caught deer meat and jerky. There has been a notable change, as the detrimental deer are kept to a manageable herd size, lessening the threat to Hawaii’s endangered native plants and animals - many of which are species only found on the islands. 

The same solve has been effective for problem-causing pigs. Sport hunters are permitted to keep these feral numbers in check as a means of sustainable land management, restoring Hawai'i’s ecology to a balanced state - and restoring our enthusiasm for pig laulau and pork char siu!

The invasive-ingredients movement is taking off in kitchens across the world.

Menu offerings like  skewered, spines-on lionfish (devenomized, preferably!) and starter salads of peppery flavored arugula-like super-green purslane are some of the common additions. Sides of fried kudzu, appetizers of tigershrimp prawns followed by juicy pork sliders are also helping eat away at environmentally damaging species. 

These edible invasives have taken over in various parts of the world - and are now taking over our dinner plates as the main ingredient. 

Kudzu, lionfish, tiger shrimp, and purslane are joined by carp, catfish - even dandelions! - on a list of plant and animal species thriving in new homes. Locally, Hawai'i has faced-off with non-endemic deer and boar. Sadly, the success of these new arrivals comes at the cost of others, upending the environmental balance that had been in place prior to their introduction. 

The byproducts have been equally rewarding, as Hawai'i fortifies locally-sourced food availability, an area in desperate need of expansion.

So order up! Dig in! With invasive species removal an ongoing challenge, getting a mouth-watering dish of problem-causing deliciousness is the least you can do. Help yourself to seconds knowing you’re saving the environment with every bite.

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