Friday 5: Edible Insects

I wrote a post last year discussing why I don’t eat insects.  It’s not so much that I’m disgusted by the insects specifically, but invertebrates in general.  I find the texture of invertebrates of any type to be incredibly awful.  It makes me nauseous.  However, and if you follow my Twitter feed you already know this, I am absolutely fascinated by the idea of entomophagy!  While I have a hard time stomaching the idea of eating a bug for textural reasons (though I will fish an insect out of a drink or off my plate and continue eating with absolutely no hesitation), I am thrilled that other people do.  I love reading articles about edible insects and I am a proponent of the recent push to start farming insects as a sustainable source of protein.  I will probably try to eat some insects at some point, but for now I appreciate the people who are out there trying to make entomophagy a reality.  So, today I give you 5 edible insects that you can try if you want to be one of the trailblazers on the bandwagon o’ entomophagy!

ants

ants

Ants

Now I don’t know if you can eat all ants, so I am not going to recommend that you head out to the sidewalk and harvest yourself a snack, but a lot of people eat ants.  Ant researcher Mark Moffett is featured in a fantastic video about people who eat ants in Cambodia that’s well worth watching and shows one traditional Cambodian preparation for ants – and the fabulous responses of nearby tourists when Moffett tries to get them to sample!  If you want to try ants yourself, I recommend heading to your nearest Asian food market for canned ant larvae.  I hear they’re good mixed into omelettes.  Or, you can have a can of dry roasted big butt ants, popular in South America, delivered straight to your door by ThinkGeek.com.  The toasted ants will probably feature heavily in my first insect-eating experience because the icky texture I can’t handle won’t be a problem in a dry roasted insect.  I imagine them to taste “nutty.”

cricket

Cricket

Crickets

I consider crickets a sort of “gateway insect” into the exciting possibilities of entomophagy because they are almost always a part of any introduction to edible insects.  Most -people who have eaten an insect have eaten a cricket.  Everyone’s seen those cricket lollypops that people buy and dare each other to eat.  However, Chocolate chirp cookies are a great way to get started in entomophagy.  What can be better than hiding what most Americans consider an unappetizing ingredient in a delicious cookie?  It’s like blending cauliflower into mac and cheese to get kids to eat more vegetables.  Tricky!  Crickets are readily available for sale, so they’re easy to get yours hands on in time for that next batch of cookies.

mealworms

Mealworms. Image from Wikipedia.

Mealworms

The other “gateway insect.”  You can fry these, dry roast them, roast and then dip them in chocolate, grind them use and use them as a flour-like substance – lots of possibilities!  I like the chocolate covered strawberries that Marcel Dicke offered at his TEDxAmsterdam talk (down at the bottom of the post).  They look yummy!  I would probably eat one of those quite willingly, maybe as the dessert after my toasted ants.  Like crickets, mealworms are also very easy to purchase, so there’s no special hunting required.  This is very unlike the dragonflies I mentioned in my post yesterday, which is probably one of the reasons they’re so popular as a food insect.

stink bug

Stink bug

Stink Bugs

Now I have a few friends who have pulled stink bugs off blacklighting sheets, popped them into their mouths, and eaten them live (not recommended by entomphagy proponents), but I have never done it.  I hear that many raw stink bugs are “peppery” with a nice, sharp bite.  I imagine it’s rather like eating a peppery radish, but I could be completely wrong.  Stink bugs are abundant and many species are pests, so a motivated insect eater can collect stink bugs themselves AND help the environment.  (I hear that some stink bug traps are a great way to attract more stink bugs to your area.)  What should you do with them once you catch them?  Why not turn them into stink bug pate?  Julieta Ramos-Elorduy has a recipe for it in her book Creepy Crawly Cuisine.  Perfect for that fancy cocktail party you’ve been meaning to throw!

scorpion

An emperor scorpion

Scorpions

I don’t think I could ever eat a scorpion, but I have it on good authority from Daniella Martin of Girls Meets Bug that they taste fabulous.  Of course, she compares the taste to soft-shell crabs, which I also don’t eat, so they’re probably not for me.  But, maybe you’re more adventurous than I am and are dying to give a scorpion a try!  If so, check out Daniella’s video on how to make a deep-fried scorpion, the recipe for which is on her website.  However, not everyone is going to want to mess with live scorpions before they eat them.  If you fall into that category, maybe you should try ordering a chocolate-covered scorpion instead to eliminate the scary live scorpion steps.

Aren’t you hungry now?  Lots of (supposedly) delicious bugs!  Think I might have to order those big butt ants today…  I really want to try them for some reason.  If I don’t wimp out, I’ll be sure to let you know how they taste!  And if you want to get into cooking bugs yourself, I recommend Creepy Crawly Cuisine (link in stink bug section) and the Eat a Bug Cookbook for some recipes to get you started.  Bon apetit!

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7 thoughts on “Friday 5: Edible Insects

  1. On a PBS show about Southeast Asia, many years ago, they showed people dipping giant water bugs in a tempura-like batter and then deep-frying them. They came out looking like, well, deep-fried giant water bugs, with the batter-coated legs dangling down (chicken nuggets with eyes and legs?). Sounded crunchy.
    the BugLady

    • I probably should have included the water bugs on my list! Totally overlooked them to be perfectly honest. Supposedly they are commonly eaten in southeast Asia, especially in Thailand and Vietnam. They are considered delicacies in the latter, with people even paying top dollar for a chemical the bugs extrude from a gland that is a highly prized food seasoning. Call me crazy, but giant water bugs, even tempura battered fried water bugs, just don’t look appetizing to me. They’re very flat, so you’d mostly be eating chitin, and that goes up against my personal food texture issues. Some people boil or fry them, then break them open and just eat the wing muscles in the thorax. While that sounds more appetizing, it seems you’d need to eat a lot of them to make it worth it. I guess I spend so much time trying to keep my bugs alive too that the idea of killing any of them to eat just seems wrong… But if anyone else wants to try one, go for it! I hear they’re really good.

  2. You don’t like prawns? How very un-Australian! Some enterprising CSIRO scientist was trying to market outbreaking grasshoppers (aka locusts) as ‘land prawns’ a few years ago, but it never caught on.

    I’m pretty fond of prawns, squid, and some crabs, not so much snails or oysters, but fried clams are okay and octopus prepared correctly is tasty. The only insect I ever ate on purpose was a handful of calotermitids on a dare. As I recall, they tasted somewhat nutty, but the squirming was gross and I had to crunch them up quickly to avoid spitting them out. Now that I know more about intermediate hosts, I’d probably only eat a raw insect if I were starving.

    Of course, we do eat insects and mites every day as contaminants in our foods, but I prefer not to think about that.

    • If my distaste for prawns makes me un-Australian, it’s a good thing I’m not an Australian! I know they’re tasty, but I just can’t get past the texture.

      It’s interesting that CSIRO was promoting eating the locusts though! Various people in the US were promoting eating the glut of cicadas that invaded the southeastern US a few months ago as a way to get rid of some of them, though I don’t think it was ever sanctioned or promoted by any sort of governmental body. In fact, one local community made the news when an ice cream shop started selling cicada ice cream. The heatlh department strongly encouraged the shop to stop selling the product because there aren’t any guidelines in place for the safe preparation of insects. The shop only made one batch – and sold out very quickly – but it was cropping up in news reports everywhere! The incident might lead to getting some of those missing guidelines in place so that people can start serving more insects in restaurants in the future. Seems like a good way to rid yourself of an unwanted, edible insect to me! Even I would eat cicada ice cream.

  3. Edible insects? You forgot gnats. I’ve probably eaten a ton of them during… OH, you mean insects you eat on purpose! Yeah, I don’t do that.

    • Yep, I’ve eaten several hundred gnats myself, as well as a beetle larva that invades my pantry and gets into my flour and pasta every now and again. I usually don’t notice they’re in my flour/pasta until I’ve nearly finished my meal! Doesn’t disturb me too much when it happens for some reason. But I haven’t ever intentionally eaten and insects. I really should, starting with those ants…

  4. Pingback: Weekend Bug Links – MYRMECOS - Insect Photography - Insect Pictures

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