Escargot Could Follow the Dodo, Scientists Warn

Snails, one of France's signature dishes, could be off the menu if the country fails to stem an invasion by a slimy worm.

Snails, one of France's signature dishes, could be off the menu if the country fails to stem an invasion by a slimy worm from Southeast Asia, scientists warned on Tuesday.

The warning is being sounded over a voracious species called the New Guinea flatworm.

It is already on a list of the 100 most dangerous invasive species in the world as it has a relentless appetite for native snails and earthworms in places where it has been introduced.

Workers at a botanical gardens in Caen, Normandy, called in scientific help after they spotted a strange, dark, flat-as-a-pancake worm among their greenhouse plants.

Reporting in the journal PeerJ on Tuesday, a team of French experts said DNA tests had confirmed their worst fears: Platydemus manokwari has arrived in Europe.

"This species is extraordinarily invasive," said Jean-Lou Justine of the National Museum of Natural History. "I really hope it can be stopped at the earliest stages."

He added: "All snails in Europe could be wiped out. It may seem ironic, but it's worth pointing out the effect that this will have on French cooking."

P. manokwari measures about five centimeters (two inches) long by five millimeters (a fifth of an inch) wide.

The back is black olive in color, with a pale white belly where its mouth is located. The head is elongated, with two prominent black eyes.

It has been introduced, sometimes deliberately, in more than 15 countries and territories in the Pacific.

Biologists are alarmed by its appetite for snail.

The worm can even pursue gastropods up tree trunks -- and when supplies of snails run out, it can tuck into other soil species, including earthworms.

The worm's ancestral habitat is the mountains of New Guinea, at altitudes of 3,000 meters (10,000 feet) and above, where the temperature is moderate.

Tests have shown the worm can survive temperatures down to 10 degrees Celsius (50 degrees Fahrenheit), which gives it a good chance of surviving in temperate, snail-friendly parts of Europe.

"Platydemus manokwari represents a new and significant threat to biodiversity in France and Europe, which hosts hundreds of species of snails, some of which are endangered and protected," said PeerJ, a publisher of peer-reviewed studies.

"It is therefore important to consider the implementation of eradication and control of this flatworm."

P. manokwari has a distant cousin, the New Zealand flatworm (Arthurdendyus triangulatus), which has triggered an invasive-species scare in western Europe.

It has invaded the whole northern British Isles, and is blamed for big reductions in earthworms which play an essential part in aerating and fertilizing the soil.

Other European countries have set in place monitoring measures in a bid to prevent it being imported through plants and agricultural products.

This image shows a specimen collected in a greenhouse at Caen. You can see its white pharynx protruding from the underside, ingesting soft tissues of a specimen of the Mediterranean snail (Eobania vermiculata).

Slow-Cooked Nutria

If you want to do your part to devour America's invasive species problem, these recipes will get you started.  

First, a simple recipe for nutria from Dave Linkhart of the National Trappers Association.  

"I take the hindquarters of a nutria and put it in a crock pot with one large onion and cajun seasoning. You can put anything else you want, carrots, potatoes, whatever. After 3 hours in the crock pot the meat falls right off the bone."

Snake Steaks

Although some pythons in the Everglades may be high in mercury, if you find an uncontaminated one you can snack on the snakes.  

Asian Style Python Steaks:

-1 kg of Python Steaks

-4-5 peeled and sliced Shallots

-1 tablespoon Turmeric powder

-5-7 cloves, peeled and pounded garlic cloves

-2-3 inches long, peeled and pounded ginger

-Lime wedges

-10 stems Lemon grass (peeled; tender parts finely chopped and pounded)

-2 tablespoons paprika

-2 tablespoons white rice wine Salt

-2 tablespoons Peanut oil

-2 quarts spring water  

First boil and poach the steaks with lemon peel, lemon grass stems, and skins of shallots, garlic and ginger in the quart of spring water. When the flesh is soft, take the Python steaks out and let cool. Next, saute’ shallots on low heat until lightly brown and add the ginger, garlic and all other spices. Next turn up the heat until the toasted aroma arise from the pot. Add flaked Python, rice wine, and more spring water and reduce heat for 10 minutes.  

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Lionfish Lunch

Lionfish took over the Caribbean, but now people are taking to lionfish. There are whole books dedicated to lionfish recipes.  

Simple Steamed Lionfish:

Coat aluminum foil wrap in olive oil then insert lionfish, along with onion, tomato slices, bell pepper, carrot, pineapple, squash, zucchini, lemon zest, salt, pepper, and thyme. Place over a fire for 6 to 10 minutes.  Serve with brown rice and a slice of fresh mango on the side.  

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Eat a Vampire

Sea lampreys decimated the fish population of the Great Lakes. The blood-sucking lampreys drained the fish until they died or were susceptible to diseases introduced through the gaping wound the lamprey left behind. But in medieval Europe, the lampreys were a prized delicacy.  

Lamprey Bordelaise:

-1 live 2 kg lamprey

-1 deciliter oil

-100 g butter

-1 bottle red Bordeaux wine

-1 small glass Armagnac

-4 shallots

-8 onions

-15 leeks

-4 garlic cloves

-600 g Bayonne ham

-2 tablespoons flour

-1 glass broth

-2 cloves

-1 bouquet garni

-6 slices country-style bread salt


Bleed the lamprey by hanging it by the head and cutting the tail over and container to collect the blood. When there's no blood dripping anymore, dip the lamprey in boiling water for 1 minute.

Take it out and peel it. Cut in 4 cm-thick slices. Put the slices in the container of blood.

Cut the white part of the leeks into 7-8 cm-long whistles and put them in butter.

Add the diced ham, the shallots and onions. Sprinkle with flour and with the wine and broth. Add the cloves and bouquet garni. Add pepper, salt a little. Add two crushed garlic cloves. Bring to a boiling point, then cook for 45 minutes over low heat.

45 minutes later, add the pieces of lamprey in the sauce, cover and cook again for 45 minutes.

Remove the slices of fish, and them in another pan or skillet with Armagnac.

Pour the equivalent of a glass of warm sauce over the blood in order to dilute it, and poor in the skillet. Stir well. Put back the lamprey, season and cook for 10 minutes with the lid on. Beat the sauce with butter.

Meanwhile, toast the bread and rub it with the remaining garlic.Put the lamprey in a shallow dish, on the slices of bread.

Put the leeks all around with the sauce.  

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Pig Out on Feral Hogs

If you are sure the wild pig you have is disease free, then pig out with this German-style recipe.  

Braised Wild Boar in Sauerkraut:

-2 (20 ounce) cans sauerkraut, drained

-3 pounds wild boar roast

-1 large onion, quartered

-4 potatoes, peeled and cubed

-4 carrots, cut into 2 inch pieces

-1 (12 fluid ounce) can or bottle beer  

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F (150 degrees C).

Pour one can of sauerkraut into the bottom of a Dutch oven. Set the roast on top of it, then arrange the onions potatoes and carrots around the roast. Cover with the remaining can of sauerkraut and pour in the beer. Cover with a lid.

Bake in the preheated oven until the roast is extremely tender, about 3 hours.  

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Tasty Tiger Prawns

Another species invading Louisiana's waters is the tiger prawn, Penaeus monodon.  

Grilled Lemon and Garlic Tiger Prawns:

-1/2 cup olive oil

-1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

-3 cloves garlic, minced

-1 lemon, juiced

-1 orange, juiced

-1 teaspoon dried basil, or to taste

-2 tablespoons white wine (optional)

-30 tiger prawns, peeled and deveined  

In a glass dish, mix together the olive oil, mustard, garlic, lemon juice, orange juice, basil and white wine. Add the prawns, and stir to coat. Cover, and let marinate for 1 hour.

Heat an outdoor grill to high heat.

Thread prawns onto skewers. Grill for 3 to 5 minutes, turning once, until pink.  

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Jumping Silverfin

The waterways of America are being taken over by a variety of carp species, most notoriously the jumping silver carp (Hypophthalmichthys molitrix). With the right recipe, the fish will jump out of the water onto your plate and right into your stomach.

Silverfin Almondine:

-4 silver carp fish steaks

-2 tablespoon of olive oil

-2 ounces of unsalted butter

-3 oz of white wine

-1 tablespoon of lemon juice

-½ cup of roasted almonds

-Seasoning to taste

In a skillet, preheat olive oil and butter until very hot

Place seasoned carp steaks and brown both sides

Add white wine and lemon juice

Place carp steaks with sauce into a baking pan

Bake at 350 for 10 minutes or until done

When served, top carp steaks with sauce then top with roasted almonds.

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