TAVERNIER -- Local gardeners may think of the invasive iguana as a pest that eats their tropical fruit and flowers, but a crew filming a pilot for a proposed reality TV series was in town last week to record iguana being prepared as food.
The crew from Pilgrim Studios in Los Angeles was trying to operate under a veil of secrecy since spokeswoman Leslie Oren said she is concerned premature press might affect their ability to sell the pilot. But word-of-mouth and social networking conspired to let the cat, or in this case, the iguana, out of the bag.
"We are in the area shooting a pilot for a potential series," Oren told the Free Press. "Should the network pick up the series, it would air at a later date on the popular TV network, Animal Planet."
The crew filmed Chef George Patti of Tasters Grille Market last week as he selected spices at Key Largo's Island Market Place. Then on Saturday morning, the crew gathered at the Tavernier Town restaurant to film Patti preparing and serving iguana.
Though Patti declined to discuss specifics about the experience, he did describe for the Free Press several ways one could prepare iguana, including poaching, sautéing and serving as appetizers.
"You would be surprised at how much it tastes like chicken," he said.
But Key Largo resident Larry 'Gunky" McMann, who has spent considerable time hunting and foraging in the wilds of South Florida, said he prefers his iguana fried.
"That's the only way I've ever eaten Iguana," he said.
McMann also took issue with any comparison of the reptile to fowl.
"I hate it when people say it tastes like chicken," he said. "It tastes more like freshwater soft shell turtle."
The common green iguana is an arboreal herbivorous lizard native to Central America and the Caribbean islands. It ranges over a large geographic area, from Brazil into Mexico and especially in Puerto Rico, where it is regularly eaten.
In the United States feral populations can be found in South Florida, Hawaii and the Rio Grande Valley of Texas, according to Wikipedia.