Invasive species are nothing new. Neither is eating them, as anyone who’s eaten Cambodian water spinach — much of it grown here in Houston — will tell you. But bringing in water spinach from Cambodia and growing it for profit (despite its status over here as a noxious weed) is entirely different from eating species which have invaded on their own.
In Louisiana, it’s oyster drills, where the invasive creatures that can destroy entire oyster beds are marketed and consumed as “Biganos snails” — similar to escargot. In Texas and other parts of the Gulf, black tiger shrimp — cannibals that eat smaller shrimp before destroying their homes — are being considered as alternatives to regular Gulf shrimp. This would allow Gulf shrimp populations to rebuild while removing the harmful but delicious black tiger shrimp from the waters.
Chef Randy Evans at Haven has a similar solution for the lionfish, which has been equally destructive as the black tiger shrimp since 2011. Although the lionfish — a species native to the Pacific Ocean — was first spotted in the Gulf several years ago, its numbers have mushroomed since then. Scientists are worried about the long-term effect the lionfish will have on the Gulf, especially in light of what took place recently in the Caribbean.