Chefs at lakeside area restaurants may soon need to check out some cuisses de grenouille recipes. With Lake Chapala’s waters offering slim pickings these days, a local fishermen’s cooperative is taking the plunge into frog farming as an alternative livelihood.
The ground-breaking project headed by cooperative president Raul Oliva was launched on Tuesday, November 25, when the group released 12,000 tadpoles into a large cement tank where they will up mature over the next two months. Once the tiny polliwogs have lost their tails and developed appendages, they will be transferred to several other tanks to be fattened up over six months until they turn into full grown bullfrogs.
While the rana toro (Lithobates catesbeianus) has properties that make it a marketable product for diverse uses, Oliva says that the Chapala frog cultivation project is aimed at raising a food product that will be sold as a culinary delicacy to select lakeside area restaurants specializing in seafood. Minus its head and feet, the complete body of the amphibian is edible, he observes. Much like popular shrimp dishes, it can be prepared al mojo de ajo (in garlic butter), a la diabla (with a spicy chile paste) or with other flavorings.
The fishermen have already acquired knowledge on the principles and techniques of frog farming through a free training course offered by Jalisco’s Ministry of Rural Development. Since then they scraped together 8,000 pesos to purchase their initial supply of tadpoles and sacks of special feed. If all goes well,
Oliva expects 11,000 of the baby frogs will survive to adulthood. The greatest challenge will be protecting them from predatory birds that have a constant a hankering for tiny amphibians.
The budding frog farm is located on property situated near the lakefront and jumping distance from the municipal nursery and the historic train station building. If successful, the new enterprise will help sustain 34 local families intent on improving their hard-scrap way of life as fishermen to rise out of impoverishment.