If You Can’t Beat ‘Em, Eat ‘Em | THE POLITICUS

If You Can’t Beat ‘Em, Eat ‘Em

I was served woodchuck stew for dinner last Thursday at an upstate farm and thought it was quite a novelty, but apparently it’s just the latest thing; today’s New York Times offers a recipe for woodchuck au vin along with tales of woe from gardeners weary of sharing their prized homegrown produce with gate-crashing critters.
The woodchuck I ate had romped and chomped his way through a farmer’s fields like a shoplifter at an open-air salad bar, poaching the gorgeous organic greens already bought and paid for by the farm’s CSA members. So the woodchuck had to go. And since he had to be sacrificed so that others might eat, they figured it was the honorable thing to do to eat him.
One gardener profiled in the Times piece—who requested anonymity out of fear that slaughtering and sautéing up woodchucks may still be just a little outré— overcame his initial squeamishness and ultimately killed 19 woodchucks, altogether:
He was finally able to make a little bit of peace with shooting the woodchucks on his property by cooking and eating them. “It was a way of taking full responsibility for taking a life,” he says. “Almost like a spiritual journey.”
Matt and I have taken less lethal--but potentially illegal--steps to deal with the woodchucks in our garden, so I’d best not give the details. One more humane method of handling hungry invaders is to simply plant extra, or, as another gardener tells the Times:
“I do what the Bible says: Leave the corners of your field unharvested for the poor and strangers among you.”
This is all well and good, unless, like us, you’ve only got a fifth of an acre and most of it is a steep, shady slope. There’s no extra space to “plant extra”. We share the berries with the birds, and the squirrels steal most of our hazelnuts, so I am sympathetic to farmers and gardeners who feel driven to drastic measures.
And this conflict between two-legged and four-legged eaters is only going to heat up; as today’s Wall Street Journal notes, higher food costs are inspiring more and more folks to rip out their lawns and plant veggies instead. The growing recognition that maintaining a lawn is a catastrophic waste of resources is contributing to the boom in vegetable seed and seedling sales, too, while flower sales are falling.
But edible landscaping also feeds the hunger to spend our leisure time doing something more gratifying than, say, shopping or plopping down in front of the tv at the end of the day—or mowing the lawn on the weekend.
Artist Fritz Haeg has been challenging the tyranny of turf and helping front yard farmers homestead for several years with his Edible Estates installations. The most recent Edible Estate was recently installed in Baltimore, where the Eat Well Guide’s Leslie Hatfield was among the eager green thumbs pitching in to help a neighbor get growing.
Leslie was also present for the woodchuck stew last Thursday, along with the rest of the Eat Well gang and our fellow blogger and Greenhorns filmmaker Severine Von Tscharner Fleming, with whom we went off on a field trip to visit some of those new American farmers that we’re always championing. Severine’s posted her eloquent take on the decline and renewal of the American landscape over at her blog, The Irresistible Fleet of Bicycles.
It does look as though the tide of lawn lemmings is at long last turning. But this mass conversion of grass to veggies may bring an influx of other rodents to our backyard buffets. Will we let them nosh, or will we quash and sauce them?