Do your bit for the environment this Christmas by indulging in some scrumptious grey squirrel
If you want to find a hazel tree, follow a squirrel. If you want to get a crop of nuts off it, shoot the squirrel. So says celebrity chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, who then suggests that as grey squirrel are both plentiful and delicious, let's eat them.
When I wrote on this topic a few years ago, some people were horrified at the thought of eating an animal that is classified as vermin. But then so are rabbits which are also scrumptious. We even did a piece on Ear To The Ground where we demonstrated how to cook a squirrel casserole but again, not everyone was convinced.
Then squirrel began to appear on the menus of some British restaurants and one enterprising chef called them 'flightless grouse' to overcome any negative perception of what the dish contained. Perhaps if 'Southern Fried Squirrel' was available in fast food outlets it would rapidly become popular and walk, or rather scamper, off the restaurant counters.
The European Squirrel Initiative- www.europeansquirrelinitiative. org - produces an excellent magazine which highlights the damage greys cause throughout the continent and the most recent issue contains further recipes which include Black Forest Smoked Squirrel and Fruited Squirrel. Check them out, http://www.cooks.com/rec/search/0,1-0,squirrel,FF.html for more great dishes.
It is estimated that over £10m (€12m) worth of damage is caused annually in Britain by grey squirrel and the European parliament are about to introduce legislation to help control them.
Greys have not yet reached France but forests in Italy have suffered huge damage and cobnut producers in Kent lose around one-third of their crop each year to what we fondly call "the tree rat".
Nut growers there each spend on average £3,000 annually on crop protection and their spokesman stated that the public should be made aware of the dangers of feeding greys.