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Wild Green

Former Utne Reader senior editor Keith Goetzman on environmental issues from climate change to composting.

Rename the Carp and Put It on the Menu

 by Keith Goetzman

Tags: Keith Goetzman, environment, invasive species, food, seafood, sustainable eating, carp, Mississippi River, Great Lakes, Big River, Chicago Reader, Chicago Tribune, Wall Street Journal,

Phillip Foss and carp

Large, invasive Asian carp are overwhelming the Mississippi River and heading for the Great Lakes—and one way to help stop their spread is to eat them, a host of observers are suggesting. But the American palate is not attuned to carp as a delicacy, and the fish’s PR problems begin with its inelegant, harsh-sounding name. So why not rename it? It worked for orange roughy, which once was known as the slimehead, and “rock salmon,” a.k.a. the spiny dogfish.

Big River magazine, which covers the Upper Mississippi, has had a field day with its carp coverage, which recently included a Name That Carp contest that is now down to its finalists. The common carp is the more established but less aggressive invader, while the silver carp is the gigantic, leaping variety that really has river watchers worried. Here are the suggested names:

Common carp
carpe delecti
river king
river koi

Silver carp
jump fish
river snapper
silver prince
winged silver roughy

Entries are closed, but Big River is asking the public to vote on these finalists and will announce the winning names in the July-August issue.

Asian carp in a crispy potato shell with braised leeks and barolo sauceIt’s not the only publication with carp on its mind. The Chicago Reader did an entire carp issue that included a ten-chef carp challenge. One chef, Phillip Foss of Lockwood restaurant, took the competition to heart and began putting carp dishes on his menu that attracted favorable attention from the Chicago Tribune and the Wall Street Journal.

But Foss isn’t going along with this renaming business. The Reader notes that “he was excited about selling Asian carp,” but that he wasn’t going to start calling it silverfin, as some boosters already have suggested. “He wasn’t going to sugarcoat it.”

Foss tells the Reader, “This fish has a lot of strikes against it. But this is not a bad-tasting fish. … You want to get it out of the water—why not fish it? Eat it for dinner tonight.”

Sources: Big River, Chicago Reader, Chicago Tribune, Wall Street Journal

Top image by Michael Boyd, www.mboydphoto.com. Carp dish image courtesy of Phillip Foss from his blog The Pickled Tongue.