Eating Crow to Eat the Frog

By Marcia Wilson

An odd, soft string of growls ring the CPTC marshlands…and from under the water! The Northern Red-Legged Frog (RLF) is active at the CPTC wetlands.

A Northern Red-Legged Frog perches on a trap at the Flett
Perched on top of a trap at the Flett, this frog was interested in the benthic macroinvertebrates and the leeches!

The RLF is a fine fellow that looks like it wears red underwear (red-legged, yes, we get it)! Many of you have already met him through Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain) in:  THE CELEBRATED JUMPING FROG OF CALAVERAS COUNTY.  This short story was collected from the gold camps and made western literature… respectable.  Eastern Americans had lumped ‘everyone out west’ as rough and uncultured. If you haven’t read this story, a con man rigs a lucrative frog-jumping contest by getting a man’s frog (a California RLF) to swallow lead shot.  Weighed down, it can’t jump, and the owner loses the bet.  RLFs will eat anything they can fit into their mouths—lead shot is a simple challenge! Adults even develop a taste for mice and hunt them at night. 

A true gourmand, the RLF never says no to a meal.

Still, fair is fair, and the RLF is happily eaten in turn by everything. 

A Great Blue Heron struggles to eat a furious Red-Legged Frog in the Flett wetlands
The heron went through so much work in getting this frog you have to wonder if the meal was worth the caloric expenditure.

RLFs were popular with the Western Fine Dining Crowd.  Yes, this is one more thing that tastes like sort of chicken, with a heaping pile of Omega-3 and retinol.  Settlers were delighted to find a ready source of frog legs for their table; it was just like the bullfrogs back home, only smaller! This backfired because we can only eat a frog’s legs—the rest is basically a frog-balloon full of yucky guts.  So, killing a frog for two legs causes a sustainability deficit pretty fast.  This ecological nightmare was launched during the Gold Rush but didn’t gain a lot of attention until the late 1990’s. 

  • Question: What to do when the menus ran out of RLF?
    • Answer:  Import American Bullfrogs, AKA the Unstoppable Borg Hoover full of diseases. 

Ooh, what a bad, initially delicious decision.

Bullfrogs arrived around 1898 and we’ve been suffering since, because they are the biggest, greediest devourer imaginable

Heron struggles again to try to eat this frog. The frog is not being helpful.
The heron struggles again to try to eat this frog. The frog is not being helpful. You can almost hear the applause of the mice in the cattails.

(and diseases; don’t forget the diseases). They eat everything, including our RLFs, who are trying hard to survive despite loss of habitat.  Bullfrogs are so invasive you can’t return them to the wild if you catch them, but at least you can hunt them without a permit!

“Eat the Frog” is a workplace strategy where you identify the biggest problem (see the frog) and then solving it first thing in the morning (eat the frog).  In the case of the American Bullfrog, eating this particular frog comes with a dash of crow—we caused this mess, and it will take a lot of effort to clean up our plates.  

Most of the bullfrogs in the supermarket are from China now, but, should you feel the urge.

How to cook bullfrog legs: Soak legs in milk for 1 hour.  Drain, dry, and fry/grill it like your favorite fish until internal temperatures reach 145°F or 63°C. Serve with parsley and lemon.

Bon appétit!