Asian Carp: Eat Them Before They Eat Us

Apr 27, 2010
Megan Bedard is a sucker for sustainable agriculture and a good farmers market, she likes writing about food almost as much as eating it.

It's uncommon these days to hear that you're supposed to eat more of a particular species of fish. If anything, we're advised to exercise restraint, eat low on the fish chain—heck, go vegetarian. But what happens when there's not a shortage, but a surplus of a specific fish?  

You should eat more of it. And Phillip Foss, chef at his own Lockward Restaurant and Bar, can tell you just how to do it. 



The alarmingly abundant Asian carp is not a tasty fish on its own. It's rather bland, like most of its freshwater companions. But Foss is doing what he can asian_carp_skinned_filetto make eating the plentiful fish more popular. He grills it, broils it, serves it raw; he serves it with lime, as a soup, alongside fennel...(Is this starting to sound like a certain scene from Forrest Gump?) Foss is on a mission to make the carp a well-liked entree, suitable for many tastes.

Back in the '70s, Asian carp were imported to the southern U.S. in hopes that the hefty fish would feast on the scum collecting in catfish ponds. It worked, but when the carp started migrating north, their reputations went from helpful to harmful.

Now Asian carp are the pests, and government workers are trying to get rid of them (even poisoning the water in some cases). The often brutish breed of carp seem to enjoy leaping en masse from the water, asian_carp_in_batterwhich poses a menace to boaters. Human water enthusiasts have suffered bruises and broken bones due to the leaping fish landing on deck. The aggressive carp are also a threat to indigenous fish species.

Until recently, a great deal of carp was exported to Israel, but a tariff imposed in December on U.S. Asian carp brought exports to a near standstill.  

But what if more chefs followed Foss's lead, and Asian carp could be controlled by America's own voracious fish appetite?

It's not a new idea; hunting to curb population growth is a common solution for other species. The trick is in convincing the public to try something new. But Foss is amped to popularize the invader fish, and he's asian_carp_on_the_grillgot plenty of happy diners. Recently, he says, one of his carp specials sold out.

Schafer Fisheries, an Asian carp processor, is looking into new uses for carp as well, including fish sticks, fish patties, and imitation crab meat.

For now, the mission is: get rid of them, and fast.  

You can be a part of the solution. Next time you're in the mood for fish, put down the bluefin, the yellowfin, and the salmon, and find a restaurant that serves a fish in surplus. 

Carp diem!

Photos: lsgcp's Flickr photostream/Creative Commons

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