Iguanas on my plate? Not aytime soon
But others may appreciate them, so why not let them have them?
I smiled at one of my friends' FaceBook posting. “Move over chicharrón. Coming soon to restaurants in Puerto Rico: iguana stuffed mofongo.”
This is humorous but unlikely to happen. The mofongo –a garlicky, mashed green plantain concoction usually served with fried pork (chicharrón) or seafood- is considered an island’s delicacy. The iguanas are more like in the pest category. But what has brought Puerto Ricans to a juncture, in which they fantasize about seeing the green reptiles on a plate, is that they want them anywhere but moving around.
Iguanas have overridden the island. There are today 4 million iguanas in Puerto Rico. That’s more iguanas than people. They were brought to the island as pets in the 1980s and the rest, as they say, is the history. They eat crops, invade highways and have even delayed arrivals and departures at San Juan’s airports as they stroll in the runway. They also periodically get inside electrical plants and cut off electricity for entire sections of the island.
So it has become a matter of survival of the fittest. Iguanas, a non native specie, have no natural predators and show no signs of slowing down their population growth. The natives (namely us) have decided to control the competing specie in the most primitive of ways: by turning them into food.
But first, we have to solve a small problem. Iguanas are not anywhere in the traditional Puerto Rican diet. Ask any of us about eating one and you’re likely to see utter disgust on our faces. Convincing my kind that iguanas are healthy and taste like chicken, will take more than lip service. Actually, I don’t even know what it would take. I do know that iguanas would have doubled their numbers and be ready to eat us before we eat them. So what are fed up Puerto Ricans to do?
We'd push them unto others. Yep. The plan is to sell iguanas to those who do eat them. We will tell our Panamanian friends and others in Latin America who deem them a delicacy, that our iguanas are tastier, juicier and way more tender than those from their countries. We could get the Europeans too. I recently listened to an interview in NPR with a British guy who specializes in importing “exotic meats” who can’t wait to get his hand on our iguanas. If we figure out how to certify them 100 percent organic we can get those picky health buffs too.
These green reptiles can be a gold mine for the island or, bare minimum, a big green business.