Invasive species threaten native species by crowding them out or taking over much of the available resources that native species need to survive. While experts have taken many approaches to fighting invasive species, a New Hampshire distillery is taking an innovative route: turning invasive European green crab into an ingredient for a one-of-a-kind whisky.
Tamworth Distilling in Tamworth, New Hampshire uses European green crab (Carcinas maenas) to infuse the whisky, concocting a brackish delicacy that has garnered much attention.
“It’s got crab on its nose, that’s for sure,” Tamworth Distilling owner Steven Grasse said of the taste, as reported by Forbes. Grasse noted that the flavor of the whiskey is like “a brackish, better fireball”.
The crab-infused whiskey, called Crab Trapper, was developed in conjunction with the University of New Hampshire’s NH Green Crab Project, whose goal is to find a way to use invasive crabs in the crab market in soft shell.
The product is made from a bourbon aged for nearly 4 years that is distilled with a modified sour mash method. A local trapper harvested thousands of crabs, which were then sent to the distillery to be cleaned and cooked. Next, Tamworth Distilling added grain spirits to the resulting crab stock and distilled the concoction.
“What we are left with is a liquid that by its nature defies categorization,” Grasse explained. “It’s not meant to be slammed like a fraternal night shot. It’s meant to be sipped, shared, and explored with friends who love the detail and depth in their lives.
European green crabs are invasive on the northeast coast of the United States and along the Pacific Ocean coast. According to NOAA, this creature is one of the most invasive marine species in the world. In their non-native environments, green crabs destroy seagrass beds, including seagrass, which are important for fishing to dodge predators. Green crabs compete with native species for food and habitat and have even been found to eat young salmon and king crabs.
Each 200 milliliter bottle of Crab Trapper whiskey contains about two green crabs and retails for $65.
“We’re raising awareness of the problem in a fun and interesting way, but it also shows that with creativity and common sense, we can turn these pesky creatures into a tasty treat,” Grasse said. “We want more brave souls in the culinary arts to take up the challenge: Defeat the enemy by eating them!”
This process of using invasive species by consuming them has been termed “invasiveness”. Although this has been a popular method for restaurants, grocery stores and now distilleries since the early 2000s, experts note that more research is needed on this tactic, and the harvesting of invasive species from this way always requires a careful and detailed approach with the insight of scientists.
“Invasiveness is not going to save the planet. and it won’t solve all of our problems,” said Joe Roman, a conservation ecologist at the University of Vermont, who was one of the first scientists to promote the consumption of invasive species, as reported by Scientific American. “It’s a tool in the toolbox. But, my boy, you have to be careful.