I’ve been dealing with green iguanas eating my cover crops in the garden all summer. Growing up in South Florida I’ve always been aware that they are non-native and in fact have become a problematic invasive species. A few weeks ago, doing a little research about them, I read that one of the best ways to catch them is with snares. The trick to snaring is knowing the habitual path of the animals, because they have to walk directly into the noose. Iguanas are known to live near water and there is a big pond at the garden with an island in the middle which has a bridge connecting it to the mainland. I’ve been watching them cross that bridge on their way to my garden for salad bar snacks. Considering how ideal the narrow bridge is for setting up snares, I bought some, set them up and have been catching iguanas ever since.
Yesterday we caught the 4th and finally got around to considering eating it. John left me a message that we had caught a big one and that he would leave it for me to decide what I wanted to do with it. When I got to the garden in the morning I saw he had taken it out of the snare and put it in an old havahart trap, probably figuring it would be more comfortable and safer from predators. Looking at the creature in the cage, I was in awe of it’s amazing skin, horns, bone structure and gills. They are truly beautiful and seem to be ancient and wise, bearing history and evolution in their features. They remind me of kings, knights and dragons.
Despite those feelings and associations, I put my feet on the ground and cleared my thoughts… reality check. I’m working towards producing food and sustenance for a community of people and this iguana is threatening my success. Either they eat or we eat.
There is a stigma attached to meat, specifically the part about killing an animal in order to eat meat and surprisingly it’s even more present around unusual meats. Iguana is a perfect example. In some Central and South American cultures, where iguanas are native, eating them is entirely normal and even traditional. Considering these same animals have become invasive in our South Florida backyards, I think it makes sense to start thinking about eating them here.
It’s a flaky, chewy white meat without a distinct flavor. Most people say it tastes like chicken, but to me it was even less gamy than chicken. For my first iguana cooking experience, I sourced a few internet recipes for inspiration, but ended up making my own thing, mostly based on what I had in the house.
After skinning the tail and cutting off the long skinny end, I par boiled it whole in salt water for about 15 minutes, making the meat tender and easy to separate from the bones. Then I browned the meat in butter, garlic and chilies and added some tomato sauce.
I added about a cup of broth and let it simmer for 20-30 minutes.
The meat became tender and easily flaked into section with my fork, almost like fish.
Warm corn tortillas, brown rice, stewed iguana tail, avocado and a little grated cheese equals a deliciously local taco!