Porcupines and Meatballs

Porcupines and Meatballs

North American porcupines are well known for their dangerous, needle-like quills that can come out and penetrate the hide of unwanted visitors. The quills are hairs with barbed tips, solid at the tip and base, but hollow for most of the shaft. A porcupine has quills on all parts of its body except the stomach, totaling about 30,000 in number. As you can imagine, it uses its quills for defense, but they cannot be thrown at an enemy as was once believed by many. When a predator approaches, the porcupine will turn its back, raise the quills, lashing out with its tail. If an animal is hit with the quills, they become embedded in the animal’s skin, held firm by barbs that can expand with body heat. Porcupine quills have recently inspired a new type of hypodermic needle.

The porcupine is of the rodent family, being the third largest. The Latin name for the animal translates as “quill pig.” There are many species the world over, but the North American variety can be found in forested and wooded areas in most of Canada and the western United States south to Mexico. In the eastern United States, it be found in Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania, New York, and New England. They are about 25 to 36 inches long and weigh up to 40 pounds. Porcupines are herbivores, eating leaves, herbs, twigs, and green plants such as clover. In the winter, they may eat bark. Many times when they are close to humans, they are seeking salt. The may gnaw on paint, plywood, doors, clothing, and more if they can get salt from them. They are mostly nocturnal and are exceptional climbers and swimmers. The hollow quills actually help their buoyancy. They have relatively high lifespan for rodents, one individual living to 27 years.


During researching facts about porcupines, I stumbled across the food subject of “Porcupine Meatballs.” Although my initial thoughts were…people really make meatballs out of porcupine meat?…I happily discovered the meat ingredient is ground beef, not ground porcupine. Since I haven’t attempted the recipe as of this post, I’m guessing the porcupine reference correlates to a prickly surface. Anyway, here is one of the recipes I found from food.com:

Porcupine Meatballs


  • 1 lb ground beef
  • ¼ cup long grain rice, uncooked (I think these are the quills)
  • 1 egg, slightly beaten
  • 1 tablespoon fresh parsley, snipped
  • 2 tablespoons onions, finely chopped
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 dash pepper
  • 1 (10 ½ ounce) can tomato soup, divided
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce



  • Combine ground beef, rice, egg, parsley, onion, salt, pepper, and ¼ cup of the tomato soup. Mix well.
  • Shape mixture into about 20 small meatballs.
  • Place the meatballs in a large skillet.
  • Mix remainder of soup, water, and Worcestershire in a small bowl; pour over meatballs.
  • Bring to a boil.
  • Reduce heat; cover; and simmer 40 minutes or until meatballs are cooked and rice is soft, stirring often.

Now you invite your friends or enemies to eat porcupine, quills and all!!!!

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