Back in October I putt up a post about Donald the lizard who lives in my lanai and, rather than pay rent, he is charged with eating any creature smaller than himself which creeps under the lanai door.
He does a good job.
Much to my surprise I received some 20 comments on this post which you can view here:
You will note in the comments that the thread quickly turned to iguanas! One of my readers had an iguana living on his property which was eating all of his hibiscus.
Iguanas are an invasive specie not native to the area. Undoubtedly a few misguided individuals kept them as exotic pets and then for one reason or another decided to let them go in the wild. Without natural enemies they soon took over some southern Florida neighborhoods.
One is free to kill iguanas here in Florida just as one is free to kill pythons which now infest the everglades. There is an annual python hunt sponsored by the state government to reduce the number of pythons.
Well the comments on the post soon turned to the morality of killing iguanas simply because they eat your flower garden and I pointed out that there are iguana repellants available on Amazon which encourages them to move on to somewhere else.
Yesterday I noticed a comment about “Chicken falling from the trees.” We had a couple of nights of cold weather (at least by Florida standards!) which caused the iguanas (which can’t take the cold) to fall out of their trees. This is not unusual on cold nights. This time however the story made the national news.
So now it’s time to write about the “Chicken of the Trees!”
On cold nights, when the iguanas fall from their trees, they are easy to catch – and eat! Iguana meat, or “garrobo” as the Miami Herald notes, has cropped up on Facebook’s digital flea market following our cold night here in Florida.
“This isn’t something we usually forecast, but don’t be surprised if you see Iguanas falling from the trees,” the National Weather Center tweeted on Tuesday when temperatures dropped into the 30s overnight. “They may fall from the trees, but they are not dead.”
The green reptiles are cold-blooded, so they have no internal control over their body temperature. They get sluggish when the temperature drops to near freezing. And eventually, they become immobile, release their grip on branches and fall from the trees.
“That apparently makes them easy pickings for backyard harvesters,” the Miami Herald reports.
At least two new listings of iguana meat appeared on Facebook in the Miami area this week. One was listed under “pet supplies” and showed the animals lined up. The other appeared to show a freshly dead (or asleep) lizard alongside various seasonings.
Garrobo is a delicacy in parts of central and South America. Caribbean peoples routinely roast the lizards and many grew up eating them. Their meat contains more protein than chicken, and members of some cultures believe it has medicinal properties.
So it is not at all unusual to eat the animal in south Florida; I’m sure there will be a number of iguana eating parties going on this weekend in Miami and Fort Lauderdale.
Aficionados of iguana meat advise cutting off the head and roasting the body with the skin on, noting it is easier to remove after it is cooked. Besides, some diners prefer to eat the meat with the skin on for a crunchy bite. After roasting the meat is cut into pieces and seasoned with fresh produce – chives and onions or curry and red pepper.
“Tastes like chicken!”
Of course, one eats iguana with a sense of humor. “This is iguana, you know!”
While south Florida iguana lovers can nab the lizards for free and with little difficulty, their peers in other states order iguana meat from companies such as Exotic Meat Markets. Anshu Pathak, owner of the California-based company, told the South Florida Sun Sentinel that he imports 10,000 pounds of iguana a month from Florida trappers.
“I am making iguana sausages, hot dogs, iguana burgers,” Pathak said. “I am trying to do anything and everything to make them palatable to the public. The industry is only growing.”
“He said he sells the meat to customers and restaurants across the United States, offering boneless meat for $59.99 per pound and whole, skin-on iguana for $49.99.
Pathak said he used to import iguanas from Puerto Rico, but now gets them from trappers in Florida. He said that trappers sometimes send the reptiles frozen, but mostly transport them alive and by airplane.