Fifth Annual Invasive Species Cook-off

crawdadATTN: The issue of the 25th erroniously chopped off the subheadline, which should have read “Don’t Worry, It’s Just Plants… and Frogs… and Giant Rats

If you were that kid constantly being told “Don’t eat that!” when you were playing outside, the Institute for Applied Ecology is here to tell you everything will be okay. On Saturday, Aug. 27 from 4:30 to 8:30 p.m. at the Benton County Fairgrounds, the IAE is hosting the fifth annual Invasive Species Cook-off.

The cook-off will be a contest for best dish using an invasive species as an ingredient. According to the details on the IAE website, “If a species is so invasive that it causes harm to other species, it’s fair game!” Dishes will be judged based on creativity, presentation, taste, and on just how invasive the ingredient is in the environment. There will be food for just about everyone as winners will be announced for best savory meat dish, best savory vegetarian dish, best dessert, and new this year, best beverage. Beverages can be for those over 21 or for all ages.

According to IAE Executive Director Tom Kaye, typical ingredients include blackberries, dandelion greens, thistles, bullfrogs, and nutria—the latter is an invasive rodent that can be slow-cooked, barbecued, or stewed. Last year an award-winning dish included crawdad tails, while one of the more surprising dishes was a bacon-wrapped starling kabob. Ingredients don’t have to be restricted to the Willamette Valley, as invasive species are welcomed from around the country.

If you’d like to participate in the cook-off but aren’t sure where to start, the IAE compiled a cookbook called They’re Cooked, which can be bought on their website or at their location on Jefferson Avenue.

The event itself is open to everyone. Live, local music will be present along with face painting and piñatas for the kids. What started as a small retirement party for colleagues at the IAE has grown into a well-known cook-off for the Northwest, so head over to the fairgrounds to find out what eradication by mastication is all about.

For more information, visit the Institute for Applied Ecology’s website at

By Gina Pieracci