I’ll Try Not To Bug You!
There are cave paintings that verify humans were eating insects over 32,000 years ago. Before they had tools to hunt or farm, they were munching on a varied cuisine composed of many different bugs including ants, scorpions, tarantulas, silkworms, larvae, caterpillars, grasshoppers, crickets, beetles, worms, lice, ticks, wild bees, and mites.
To this day, 80% of the world’s population eats insects of one type or another. Though North America and Europe frown on the practice – due to the “yuck factor” – they are slowly coming around to accepting insect consumption – at least on a limited basis. After all, even though Rome wasn’t built in a day, you’ll soon be able to eat bugs for breakfast in that famous Italian city.
An Answer To World Hunger
Studies have shown that if more people consumed insects for food – entomophagy – especially in poorer countries, it would go a long way towards alleviating world hunger.
Moving away from red meat, pork, poultry, and fish – and eating more bugs – is also better for the environment because, insect farming takes up less space, uses less water, and produces fewer environmental contaminants.
I have been to the outdoor markets in Thailand where they sell insects, big and small – dozens of varieties. Most of them are either deep fried or stir fried – some insects are dried and covered with various spices. I’ve seen grasshoppers and crickets – as well as spiders, silkworms, termites, ants and insect eggs – plus a few super large bugs that looked like they would be especially menacing if they were alive.
I definitely have noticed an increase in the number of people eating insects in both the United States and Europe. Currently, there are about a dozen Top Restaurants Serving Insects in the United States. – not to mention hundreds of local mom and pop restaurants scattered across the county with insects as part of their fare. Recently, the European Union passed guidelines for restaurants that want to put bugs on their menu – even though not long ago, a chef in Italy was chastised for offering bee larvae on toast to his restaurant clientele.
I envision that, in the next decade or two, eating insects will gain in popularity exponentially in the U.S.A. and the European Union.
Foraging For Edible Insects
If you plan on gathering up a few bags of insects yourself – Insects: An Edible Field Guide is a great resource!
The basic rule of thumb is that brightly colored bugs and worms (red, orange, yellow, etc.) – or furry critters – should be avoided – as well as creepy-crawlies with strong smells. They may sting you – or be venomous – and could very well make you sick.
For forest munching, eat only insects that don’t stink – and are colored black, brown, or dark green.
Insects And How To Eat Them
There is a wide range of cricket products available for cooking and snacking. They contain a superior amount of protein – usually more than red meat – and they are drastically low in fat content. You can find them in anything from protein bars – to pasta – to cakes – to cookies – and you can even find them in lollipops and chocolates.
Reduce the amount of all purpose flour used for baking by 25% and add gluten-free cricket powder (flour) to make up the difference – for breads, cakes, cookies, brownies, etc.
Many of these cricket products can be eaten as a snack – or crushed up to be used as a cooked food ingredient – or as a topping for tacos, burritos, or, salads, to name a few uses. They will add a mild, but distinctively nutty taste.
The larvae of these pollinators are high in proteins and carbohydrates, as well as a host of minerals and vitamins.
Tsukudani is a Japanese sauce containing a mixture of soy sauce, saké or mirin (a rice wine condiment similar to saké), and sugar. It is simmered slowly on the stove – and ready to use when it becomes very dark. The concoction has both a salty and a sweet flavor. Tsukudani sauce is also used for food preservation because of its ability to retain the basic qualities of the foods preserved.
The company, EntoVida, offers an introduction to the Japanese style of bee eating with its Tsukudani of Hornet Larvae.
Ants And Termites
Long ago, I remember a few companies that were selling chocolate covered ants. I tried a few of these but, was put off by the flavor. After the initial sweet taste of chocolate, biting into the ants added a vinegar-y flavor. And, for me, the combination of sweet chocolate and sour ants didn’t go together very well.
When ants feel that they are in danger, vinegar-like acid oozes out of them. I like them dried and roasted – and, I add a little garlic salt to them – which enhances their crunchy, sour flavor.
NOTE: Since the ant queens have big butts, they contain a bit more fat and are a little juicier. Some cultures believe that they will also enhance your sex drive.
Here are several edible ant products you might like to try. At least, you may want to try the lollipops – which come in 4 different flavors!
Black ants and Weaver ants go great on salads, vegetables, and bread. They also add a bit of sourness to any cheese dip. And, the ant lollipops – 4 flavors are not only a fun novelty item but, they are tasty, too.
Winged termites are the tastiest. Raw termites have a delightful pineapple flavor – which they lose when cooked – then they develop a soft-spoken garden veggie taste. Some folks say that uncooked termites have a minty tang – while others have said that it’s like savoring a baby carrot. I guess it depends on what part of the world the termites are from…you think?
Try these Salted Flying Termites and let me know if you like them.
Also called Chapulines in Mexico, grasshoppers have a texture reminiscent of Cheetos and taste like raisins. Those harvested during their summertime peak are pretty tender – but, any harvested at other times may be a little bit leathery.
Grasshoppers have parasites – so, don’t eat them raw or you may get sick. Either boil, grill, roast, or fry them – but, don’t forget to wash them under some cold water first.
Remove the wings and legs. They won’t harm you but, even though they’re edible, their pretty tasteless – and have no food value. The removal process is easier if they are boiled for 5 minutes – or frozen for 15 minutes.
Those who put grasshoppers on a stick and roast them over an open fire remove the heads first – which will usually suck out the edible innards.
Would you like to try some grasshopper snacks, grasshopper salt, or grasshopper candy?
Go for it!
Depending on the type of worm and what plant it was living on, their taste will be different.
For instance, the town of Ben Tre, in the Mekong Delta, Vietnam, is famous for its coconut palm trees. Tourists love these coconuts. But, the locals actually enjoy the coconut worm the most – due to its unique beefy meat flavor. They also use the worm in many recipes.
A typical earthworm – that crawls through the soil – will probably taste like dirt – because, that’s where it lives.
Whatever the case, if you want to try eating worms that you have picked yourself, boil them first – then rinse and boil one more time. After that, you can use them in any number of stir fries, stews, and soups – or dehydrate them.
Just like grasshoppers, worms harbor toxins that may not agree with you.
And, don’t forget the cardinal rule for eating insects – if they are brightly colored, stay away.
Here are some worm snacks, worm salt, and worm candy for your enjoyment:
Yep! We can eat spiders, too! Most spiders have a delicate white gooey meat inside their head and body that taste like a cross between chicken and cod fish – and, they are crispy on the outside. Even the legs have a little bit of flesh on them and can be eaten as well. So, basically, you can eat every part of an arachnid!
Spiders can be eaten raw but, they really taste better when cooked – or dehydrated and salted.
NOTE: If you eat raw scorpions, remove the stinger and the venom glands before you chow down. You might end up with a numb tongue or worse!
The 2 most commonly eaten spiders are scorpions and tarantulas.
Scorpions to snack on:
Zebra Tarantulas to munch a bunch:
Insect Combo Packs
If you’d like to try one of this – and one of that – and one of the other – pick up one of these insect combo packs for an across the board truly unique experience.
I just got to say that after all this talk about eating slithering, creeping, crawling, hopping bugs, I’m getting’ a bit hungry! Leave me a comment or email and tell me about your experiences eating spiders, worms, and bugs. I’m bitin’ at the bit to hear what-cha got-ta say!
But, for now, I’m headin’ to the kitchen to pig out!
Maybe, I’ll stop by my compost pile and pick up a few crawlies first.
Jim, the Lifelong Gardener