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The State You're In: Deal with invasive species in Florida at dinner table

It’s what’s for dinner.

It’s what’s for dinner.

Few states have been as transformed by its invaders — animal and human — as Florida.

We speak here of the overly ambitious python willing to attempt to swallow an alligator whole, and Nile monitor lizards that have performed so well in the abandoned canals of Cape Coral that one wonders if somehow Egypt wasn't just Peoria to Florida's Broadway.

But by the time these conquistadors of nature start making news, they're already on their way to ecological dominion. They always turn out to be inveterate breeders, voracious feeders and pure predators that don't appear on any one else's menu.

That might be about to change.

The 2011 edition of the Smart Seafood Guide published by Food and Water Watch for the first time recommends turning the tables on invasive species, such as the lionfish, which over the past few years has treated coral reefs in the Keys and the Caribbean like Las Vegas buffets.

"Instead of eating something like shark fin soup, why not eat a species that is causing harm and with your meal make a positive contribution," said Philip Kramer, director of the Caribbean program for the Nature Conservancy in a New York Times story.

Turning a pest into protein doesn't happen overnight. But a couple of local chefs are willing to try to change attitudes for the sake of the environment.

"I think that would be a good sales pitch," said Tom Pritchard, executive chef of Salt Rock Grill.

Zack Gross, owner of Z Grille, says if he can find a supplier for lionfish, he'd be more than happy to put it on a menu. "The thought of it is kind of cool."

Why stop there? How about seared tournedos of lizard in a Brazilian pepper honey glaze?

Bill Duryea, Times staff writer

The State You're In: Deal with invasive species in Florida at dinner table 08/06/11 [Last modified: Monday, August 8, 2011 11:44am]
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