Tree Chicken Stew

Invasive, non-indigenous flora and fauna have been a problem in Florida since the white man first landed on its shores.

Melaleuca trees

PSSF Mel stand

were introduced in the 30s to help dry out the Everglades for the development of housing tracts. The tree invades a variety of wetland habitats including sawgrass marshes, wet prairies, and aquatic sloughs. It often forms impenetrable thickets, reduces biodiversity, displaces native vegetation and reduces the value of these habitats for wildlife. It also accelerates the loss of groundwater due to increased evapotranspiration. Melaleuca is native to Australia, New Guinea, and New Caledonia.

Brazilian peppertree, originally introduced in the 1840s as an ornamental invades a variety of habitats including old fields, forests, hammocks, ditches, and wetlands. It forms dense thickets that displace native vegetation.


The Florida Invasive Species Partnership also counts an additional 138 plant species as a problem such as kudzu, alligator weed, camphortree, and waterhyacinth.


There are 62 species of fish listed by the partnership and stories of the Walking Catfish were quite common several years ago. When their habitat dries out they have the ability to “walk” a limited distance using their front fins as legs.


Eighty five species of birds are on the list. It’s not uncommon here in southeast Florida to see flights of parakeets and macaws that are descendents of pets that either escaped or were released by people who grew tired of them. Parrots build huge nests in telephone poles and it’s not uncommon to have them blow out transformers in the process.

Fire ants and Africanized honey bees are only two of the more than 27 non-native insect pests on the list.

Zebra mussels are among the 25 molluscs identified by the Partnership.


There are 14 different ticks along with the sea squirt in the arachnid division.

Only six crustaceans, including the mangrove boring isopod and the Indo Pacific swimming crab, are to be found.

Nutria, commonly referred to as “rats” in Cajun country, the Indian Mongoose and the rhesus monkey made it into the mammal section. Most of the rhesus monkeys were formerly research subjects that escaped when hurricanes destroyed the facilities where they were kept.

The cane toad, Bufo marinus, famous for their toxic secretions which are supposed to have hallucinogenic properties and are notorious for killing pet dogs that bite them are half of the amphibion pests.

There are 67 reptiles on the list. The one getting the most press these days are the Burmese pythons that are being found in the Everglades.


Undoubtedly released into the wild by disillusioned pet owners it is believed there is now a breeding population in the Glades.

But the most visible reptilian pest, aside from the ubiquitous anole lizards


are iguanas.


They’re everywhere. They’re pests that devour flowers and gardens with impunity.

In certain parts of Central and South America, they are regarded as FOOD and often are referred to as “Tree Chickens.”

Thursday evening my roommate, Kevin, returned from a friend’s house that is located in the Las Olas Isles section of Fort Lauderdale with the announcement that he’d brought home “dinner for tomorrow” and proceeded to take a three and a half foot-long iguana from the plastic bag he was carrying. He had talked a long time about how he wanted to try iguana and Thursday he had been able to shoot this one on our friend’s dock.

While Kevin was butchering the beast I went on line scouring the internet for an appropriate recipe. The lizard dressed out with about two pounds of meat and Kevin proceeded to cook the following Iguana Stew.

3 to 4 pounds of iguana

1 teaspoon salt

3 peeled and sliced potatoes

1 large sliced onion

1 cup lima beans

1 cup canned tomatoes

1 tablespoon sugar

1 cup frozen corn

Salt and pepper to taste

1 tablespoon ketchup or Worcestershire sauce

1/4 cup of butter

Place iguana in Dutch oven with enough boiling water to cover. Add salt and simmer for 45 minutes.

Add potatoes, onion, lima beans, tomatoes and sugar. Cover and simmer for 30 minutes or until beans and potatoes are tender.

Add corn, cover and simmer for 10 minutes.

Season with salt and pepper and add ketchup or Worcestershire sauce if desired.

Add butter and stir well.

I’m not squeamish about the foods I ingest. I LOVE escargot, have chowed down on Bambi’s mom, the Easter Bunny, goat, kangaroo tail and, in France, horse (the meat you can bet on). If I was visiting a country, like Korea, where dog is often on the menu I’d give that a shot but I wouldn’t kill Penny to try it. So I didn’t have a problem with trying iguana. After all, they aren’t carrion feeders like lobsters, crabs and shrimp. Iguanas are strict fruit, flower and veggie eaters.

Actually the stew was quite tasty, and yes, while most uncommon delicacies are said to taste “like chicken” that’s exactly what iguana tastes like. If you were blindfolded and weren’t told what you were eating you’d swear it was chicken. For the most part people’s aversion to eating certain foods, octopus, calamari and conch, come to mind, isn’t the food itself but the thought of the food about to be consumed that upsets people.

Kevin will probably be cooking Tree Chicken Stew again. He says it would be best to have two iguanas so he would have eight legs and two tails, the only meaty portions of the beast, to work with.

Comments Off on Tree Chicken Stew

Filed under Uncategorized

Comments are closed.