Would controlling the growing Asian carp population be easier if they were tasty?
That's part of the logic behind an initiative organized by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources and Chicago's Shedd Aquarium, which involves passing out free sliders made with the high-protein fish during this year's Taste of Chicago, the Associated Press reports.
The invasive species that devours plankton, throwing ecosystems off kilter, first appeared on Chicago's shores in 2010. Efforts to control the population have included promotions highlighting the carp's nutritional value in the past, but many diners are put off by the bony fish and its bad reputation.
Starting at noon on Wednesday, organizers will hand out 750 mini-burgers with "Mediterranean-style" patties of Illinois River-caught carp prepared by chefs from Dirk's Fish and Gourmet Seafood, topped with a tomato-jalapeno chutney, the Chicago Tribune reports. The free snacks will be available for as long as supplies last at the fest, and more are available for sale and sampling at Dirk's Lincoln Park store, located at 2070 N. Clybourn Ave.
Spokesman Chris McCloud told CBS Chicago that he's not sure the overabundant fish will take off as a food staple in the area, but at a time when environmental groups are overextended trying to combat the growing Asian carp population, any change in perception can be helpful:
"We are not looking to create a long-term sustainable market for Asian Carp, but right now there are so many of them, that any help in getting them out of our rivers, lakes, and streams is going to be a benefit,” McCloud told the station.
While the free burgers will likely be a welcome snack amid the many food offerings that range in price at the Taste, they're likely to be little consolation for returning fest-goers who showed up hankering for turkey legs.
Not in the mood for carp burgers? Check out some of the other fare available at this year's Taste of Chicago :