The Invasivore’s Cookbook

Help save Virginia’s ecosystem by eating invasive species.

Jeff Greenough


Brian Helleberg, owner and pastry chef at Fleurie, serves up some Chinese mystery snails.

In the April 2012 issue of Virginia Living, Mary Burruss’ story, “Let them eat…snails?” introduced us to the problem of invasive species, like Chinese mystery snails, that have entered Virginia’s ecosystem and are out-competing and displacing native species, causing ecological disruption and costing Virginian taxpayers over $1billion a year.

Burruss’ story also introduced us to a possible solution: the “invasivore” movement, led by Jackson Landers. Being an invasivore means solving the problem of invasive species by, well, eating them. It’s the most cost-effective—and tastiest—way to combative invasive species and keep Virginia’s ecosystems intact.

Below you’ll find recipes from noted Virginia chefs Brian Helleberg, Brian Jones and Stefan Friedman, as well as from John Odenkirk, biologist at the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries. Bon appétit!

Escargot Confit with Armanac, Tomato, and Almond with a Sunchoke Puree and Puff

Pastry Chef Brian Helleberg

Fleurie Restaurant, Charlottesville

Serves 8


4 dozen Chinese mystery snails

2 cloves garlic, chopped fine

1 shallot, diced

2 tabelspoons tomato paste

1 cup Armanac

2 tabelspoons butter

½ cup sliced almonds

½ cup vegetable oil

about 1 cup vegetable stock

Rinse snails under cold running water. In a medium pan, melt the butter and sauté the shallot for one minute stirring so that it doesn’t color. Add the garlic and continue stirring until tender. Add the tomato paste and lightly “toast” in pan to develop flavor. Add the Armanac, almonds, oil and snails and cover loosely with lid or a parchment paper lid. Bake for 4 hours at 300 degrees. Remove lid periodically and baste with vegetable stock to insure there are no burnt edges. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Jerusalem Artichoke Puree:

1 lb Jerusalem artichokes

1 shallot

½ cup dry white wine

2 cups cream

1 sprig thyme

Peel and thinly slice the Jerusalem artichokes. Set aside. Dice the shallots and place them in a 2-quart saucepan. Add the white wine and thyme. Drain the artichokes and transfer to the pan with the shallots, thyme, wine and cream. Cover the pan with a parchment paper lid and simmer until tender (about 1 hour).

Remove the thyme and strain the mixture when cool, reserving the liquid. Puree the solids in a blender until very smooth. Season with salt to taste.

Puff Pastry:

Cut 1-inch diameter rounds of the puff pastry and set in refrigerator to rest for at least one hour. Brush with egg wash and bake at 400 degrees for 12 minutes or until golden brown. Garnish with confit tomato and celery leaves.

Snails with Garlic and Parsley Butter

Chef Brian Jones

Petit Pois, Charlottesville

Serves 4

24 Chinese mystery snails, rinsed well

4 cloves garlic, chopped fine

1 tablespoon roasted garlic puree

4 tablespoons butter

1 tablespoon chopped parsley

1 tablespoon water

Melt half the butter in medium saucepan. Add the snails and the chopped garlic and stir over medium heat for three minutes. Do not let the garlic brown. Add the roasted garlic puree, water, and remainder of the butter over low heat and gently whisk so that the butter is emulsified. Season with salt and pepper, add the chopped parsley and serve with grilled bread.

Chef’s Angel Hair Pasta with Kudzu Pesto

Stefan Friedman

Slow Food Albemarle Piedmont

Note: remove tough stems from kudzu and parboil before using in recipes

Kudzu Pesto:

1 ½ cups of young kudzu shoots

¼ cups pecans

2 cloves garlic, chopped

½ cup olive oil

½ cup pecorino romano cheese

¾ teaspoons salt

pepper to taste

Prepare 1 lb angel hair pasta according to cooking instructions on the box. Puree other ingredients in a food processor or blender. Toss pesto in with hot pasta and serve.

Sauteed Kudzu Greens

Stefan Friedman

Slow Food Albemarle Piedmont

4 to 5 cups slightly larger kudzu leaves

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 medium onion, chopped

¼ cup cup pine nuts

1/8 cup raisins

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

salt and pepper to taste

Heat olive oil in a large pan at medium high. Add the onions and carmelize. Throw in the kudzu and heat for 3 to 4 minutes until wilted. Remove from heat. Toss onion/kudzu mixture with remaining ingredients and serve.

Cajun Grilled Northern Snakehead

John Odenkirk, biologist at the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries

For the Rub:

1 tablespoon paprika

2 teaspoons lemon zest, dried

2 teaspoons coarsely ground black pepper

1 teaspoon dried tarragon

1 teaspoon dried basil

1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1/4 teaspoon salt

Mix all the ingredients together in a small bowl. Brush the fish lightly with olive oil or melted butter, sprinkle about 1/2 teaspoon of dry rub over each side of the fish, and press it in with your fingers. Let the fish marinate at room temperature for 30 minutes to an hour before grilling.

Snakehead in the Wok

John Odenkirk, biologist at the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries

3 tablespoons sesame oil

1/2 cup of rice wine vinegar

1/4 cup sliced fresh ginger

1/4 cup chopped scallions

Heat the sesame oil in a wok or skillet. Pour the rice wine vinegar in a bowl and dunk the fish.  Toss fish in the wok or skillet along with the ginger and scallions. Stir constantly until the fish is cooked through. Serve over rice with steamed edamame on the side.

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