Potato Creek Collection Extravaganza!

Invasivores Andy and Matt take a perfect spring afternoon to collect burdock, Chinese mystery Snails, and garlic mustard.

Eat these invasive species
A Subaru of edible invaders. Photo Credit: A. Deines

At the end of a long semester, the Invasivores needed some field work.  We are, above all, ecologists and there is no lab work for self respecting ecologists on this kind of day.  We couldn’t have asked for a better one to kick-start a summer of collecting edible invasive species.

First target: Phragmites

One of the first species we were able to collect last year was phragmities, a common perennial reed in wetlands.  Munching dandelion heads, we came several weeks later this year than last and with the much earlier spring, the forest underbrush was thick.  Stinging nettles turned us back to the path.

Target two: burdock

Chaco’d feet and short-bared legs stinging, we looped back and spotted the large leaves of burdock tucked at the margin of the grass and trees.  Success! We knelt and with gentle probing, large portions of the starchy tap-root revealed themselves.  Roots and comical leaves like elephant ears in tow, the sun and sweat propelled us toward the lake.

Target three: Chinese Mystery Snails

Kayakers and bass boats floating nearby, we stepped down into Worster Lake.  The Chinese mystery snail was our first featured species at Invasivore, and we were excited to give them another go.  The shallow water was warm on bare feet and soothing on still stinging and nettled skin.  Though not at the extreme densities of many mystery snail invasions, we found a meal’s worth with only a few minutes of searching.  Success! Aquatic ecologists to the core, we turned some rocks to find a few crayfish, though we couldn’t positively identify whether they were invasive or native.  Another meal for another trip with a trap, perhaps.

 Target four: Garlic Mustard

What a love-hate relationship we have with garlic mustard. While my ecology students may never forget garlic mustard relish, my friends will never forgive me for garlic mustard ice cream.  Garlic mustard is ubiquitous this time of year in the midwest, so we thought for sure we would find a bundle.  It turns out that the park has an active program to remove garlic mustard and we found only a few plants.  Such a failure is truly a rare success!

Overall, it was quite a successful trip for these invasivores.  Keep an eye out for some recipes describing what we did with our delicious harvest!


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