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bastard cabbage

If you can’t beat ’em, eat ’em

Texas Monthly proposes a way to deal with those bothersome invasive species.

Keep your invasive species sweet; you may have to eat them. Late last week StateImpact Texasput together a list of the “Top Ten Invasive Species in Texas.” But what’s the best way to trim back their numbers? Helping eliminate invasives by eating them is an idea that has received a fair amount of press in the past year. “Humans are the most ubiquitous predators on earth,” the Nature Conservancy’s Philip Kramer told Elisabeth Rosenthal of the the New York Times. “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?”

Maybe a large part of the problem is branding. “While most invasive species are not commonly regarded as edible food, that is mostly a matter of marketing, experts say,” Rosenthal wrote. Wenonah Hauter, the executive director of Food and Water Watch, was of that mind: “What these species need now is a better — sexier — profile, and more cooks who know how to use them,” she said.

“The whole outdoors is like a grocery store, if you know where to look,” Cecilia Nasti, the host of Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s weekly radio series, “Passport to Texas” and KUT’s “Field and Feast,” told the TM Daily Post. When internal emails circulate through TPWD about the latest invasive species, Nasti said her first question is always ‘Is this something we can eat?’”

In that spirit, we’ve drawn up together our own subjective list, ranking five of Texas’s species by deliciousness and collecting recipes to help you prepare each.

Some of these critters, like the giant tiger shrimp, you may have already seen on your menu. Some, like the feral hog, a/k/a “wild boar”, don’t have a branding problem so much as they have a supply chain problem. There’s so dang many of them that mere hunting and trapping strategies are woefully inadequate. We allow people to shoot these things from helicopters with machine guns in order to try and control their population, for crying out loud. If there were an efficient way to harvest and butcher them, believe me it would be done. Anyway, there’s merit to what they suggest, though good luck to whoever has to come up with an appetizing name for nutria. I just figure that if someone could have come up with a way to make money off of this, they’d have done it by now.

Bastard cabbage

All that recent rain benefits good plants and bad plants.

Bastard cabbage

With its thick outcropping of leafy green branches topped with small yellow flowers, an invasive weed commonly called bastard cabbage is blotting out large swaths of wildflowers, including the beloved bluebonnets, in some areas across Texas.

“It turns out that the good weather conditions that give us good wildflower seasons also favor the bastard cabbage,” said Damon Waitt, senior director and botanist at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

“I’ve seen areas that used to be bluebonnet hillsides along roadways that are now bastard cabbage hillsides,” he said.

Waitt said it’s not known exactly when or where or how the invasive weed with the scientific name of Rapistrum rugosum got introduced to Texas, but it may have happened when the seed of the weed native to the Mediterranean area got mixed in with grass seeds.

He said bastard cabbage’s proliferation in Texas has gotten worse in recent years. He said bastard cabbage — which though part of the mustard family resembles broccoli or cabbage plants because of the flowers at its tips — is growing everywhere this year from parks to front lawns, but is especially prevalent along the state’s major roadways.

Waitt says most wildflowers grow as tall as 1 to 2 feet. Bastard cabbage grows anywhere from 2 to 5 feet tall.

I don’t really have a point to make, I just like saying “bastard cabbage”, which as I noted a few years ago would make an excellent band name. Reading that story pointed me to the Texas Invasives webpage, where you can go to learn more about various invasive species in our state. Like, you know, bastard cabbage.