Try a taste of squirrel this Invasive Species Week

Muntjac nibbles and potted grey squirrel are just two of the delicious ways people can make a difference this Invasive Species Week.
 
The two species are just some of the invasive non-native species (INNS) in the UK and to mark Invasive Species Week, which will run from 24-30 May, BASC is calling on people to try a taste of them.
 
BASC’s wild food officer Matt Gisby has prepared a sample menu using muntjac venison and grey squirrel.  Below, he outlines the benefits of each of the meats and gives suggestions on serving them.
 
Grey Squirrel:
Grey squirrels were imported from North America during the Victorian era. Since then, they have become one of the biggest pests in the UK. They cause considerable damage to woodlands, houses, and our native wildlife. Greys are carriers of the squirrel pox virus, which is fatal for our native red squirrels, they outcompete their smaller cousin for food and are known to predate on chicks and eggs of our native bird species.

On cooking, Matt said: “The flavour and texture of grey squirrel meat is hugely underestimated. Squirrels don’t have a lot of meat, but with some careful preparation and slow cooking, you can get most of the meat off the bones.

“Sometimes, it is better to use squirrel as a starter than commit a whole main course to the species. Dishes such as potted squirrel with chutney and toast can be prepared well ahead of time and make the most of the squirrel.”

Muntjac deer:
An invasive species originating from China, introduced in the UK in early 20th century. Able to breed year round the deer is now widespread, particularly in South and Central England. Increasing numbers of road accidents caused by muntjac and overgrazing of woodland floors are two major concerns.

On cooking, Matt said: “Muntjac are an ideal deer species for home cooking. In general, muntjac meat is sweet and not overly strong, making it perfect for family meals.

Venison meatballs in tomato sauce works well with muntjac, the sauce can be made well ahead of time and alongside fresh pasta makes for an exquisite main course.

Muntjac steak with watercress pesto and garlic toast is delicious. Steaks cut from muntjac loin are perfect for this ‘nibble’-type recipe. Muntjac are not the biggest of animals so a sharing approach works well. Any leftover pesto is great as a marinade for meat on the BBQ or in pasta dishes.”

To buy muntjac venison or grey squirrel meat, talk to any good butcher or game dealer or visit the Wild Meat Company’s website. Visit www.tasteofgame.org.uk for more information.

Other invasive delicacies include American signal crayfish and Egyptian goose.

The most recent estimated cost of Grey squirrel damage to trees in England and Wales is £37 million per year: https://rfs.org.uk/media/848494/grey-squirrel-impact-report-overview.pdf

Within the England Trees Action Plan, launched by the Government last week, as well as committing to trebling tree planting targets in five years with a £500 million fund, Defra has committed itself to developing a national deer management strategy and updating the Grey Squirrel Action Plan. Read more here: https://basc.org.uk/sustainable-shooting-key-to-governments-nature-recovery-plans-2/
 
 For more information, visithttps://basc.org.uk/invasive-species-menu/

 ENDS

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