"Can you," not "should you"
Happy Groundhog Day, everyone! Unless you’re reading this too late—in which case—happy regular day! In the ever-expanding mission to unearth information and satisfy hungry minds and stomachs, I decided to ask a hard-hitting question all traditionalists have pondered at one point in their lives: can you eat groundhog? Yes, that’s right; that indecisive little creature who supposedly dictates the weather patterns of America for the next six weeks. Could you, for example, cook it up and eat it with a side of roast potatoes? To see if such a dish was possible, we did some serious digging—not unlike the digging a groundhog does prior to being pulled out of its hole for the sole purpose of predicting the future. Man, this is a weird tradition.
Short answer? Yes, you can eat groundhog, and arriving at this conclusion was surprisingly easy. This journey began with some old fashioned internet snooping, which originally led me to an array of articles, recipes, and guidelines all linking back to an old story written by a man named Everett J. Castro for Mother Earth News in 1984. Castro wrote in detail about the joy of eating groundhog and the family tradition of trapping, skinning, and eating America’s second or third most prized rodent. There’s a solid recipe for groundhog pie that I plan on making as soon as I get over my fear of omnipotent marmots. The pie consists of carrots, potatoes, butter, and onion and sounds—more or less—exactly like a chicken pot pie.
Also, did you guys know know that groundhogs and woodchucks are the same animal?!
Anyway, after reading Castro’s article, I decided that I wanted to find out whether or not one should eat groundhog. Is this a normal meal or are you facing a case of meat madness through the consumption of this little marmot? This question brought me to Daniel Blumstein—Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at UCLA, and a total groundhog guru.
“Oh, of course groundhogs are edible,” said Blumstein so matter of factly that I felt like a philistine for even bringing the question up, “I was studying groundhogs empirically in Ohio a few years ago and people told me they survived the Great Depression eating those things. What’s that famous cookbook? The Joy of Cooking? Earlier editions have groundhog recipes. These are things people used to eat commonly.”
When I ask him if you could get worms or rabies or worms with rabies from consuming the meat, Blumstein gave me this relatively reassuring answer: “Oh, you can get diseases from any animal, but in theory, no… you can’t get diseases from eating groundhog.”
Blumstein wasn’t lying—not only is there a groundhog recipe from The Joy of Cooking, but books carrying recipes for the rodent go back at least as far as 1912 in the Baptist Ladies' Cook Book. That said, groundhog doesn’t exactly have a reputation for tasting good, especially as the animals age: “Old ground hog [sic] would spoil a buzzards [sic] appetite,” said a shotgunworld.com forum contributor.
So, to put the answer to rest, yes you definitely can eat groundhog. Does that mean you should? No. Or yes! I don’t know your life. Or your tolerance for gamey rodent meat.