Would you ever eat bugs? While the thought of consuming creepy-crawlies might make your stomach turn, entomophagy – eating insects - is a regular part of the diet for 80 percent of the world’s population. Bugs are a healthy and environmentally friendly source of protein, and it’s hard to ignore the growing edible-insect movement in America. To help you get to know your possible future meal, feast your eyes on these eight edible bugs.
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Roasted crickets are common fare in Mexico, Thailand and Cambodia and are similar in taste and texture to popcorn or nuts. According to Daniella Martin, the blogger behind Girl Meets Bug, crickets taste “like a cross between a shrimp and an almond” due in part to their natural fat content and crunchy exoskeleton. Incorporate crickets in your diet for a boost in calcium and iron (75.8 mg calcium and 9.5 mg iron per 100 g of cricket); try sautéing them with garlic, olive oil and salt or roasting them in the oven, and use them as toppings for your guacamole or tacos. Some cricket-eaters recommend removing the legs and wings to avoid getting them stuck in your teeth.
Angelina Jolie counts herself and her family as fans of this popular treat, which she discovered during a family trip to Cambodia and described as tasting “like a potato chip”.
In Mexico, Oaxacan cuisine includes chapulines, or grasshoppers, which are prepared by toasting them in a little oil with garlic, lemon and salt for a crispy texture and a “grassy, earthy flavor”. Grasshoppers are a healthy source of protein, providing 20.6 g of protein per 100 g of grasshopper (compared to 25.8 g of protein per 100 g of lean ground beef).
There are many varieties of ants eaten worldwide. Honeypot ants have abdomens that swell to the size of grapes storing nectar-like food for fellow worker ants, and they are eaten raw as a sweet delicacy by the aboriginal peoples in Australia. South Americans consume roasted leafcutter ants, nicknamed big-bottomed ants, for their nutty bacon flavor and crunchy texture, and roasted ants are sold like popcorn at movie theaters in Bogota, Columbia. In general, raw common ants have an acidic vinegar taste, which can be removed by boiling.
Mealworms are beetles at the larval stage. According to Abigale Miller, the blogger behind Abigale’s Edibles, toasted mealworms can taste like “roasted nuts or seeds” and taste good “covered in chocolate or sprinkled on soup”. For those of us who are squeamish about seeing these wriggly creatures on our plates, entomologist Florence Dunkel at the University of Montana recommends grinding freeze-dried mealworms into a powder to use in your cooking and baking.
This year, starting mid-April through mid-June, a brood of billions of 17-year cicadas will emerge in eastern North America to mate. Cicadas are widely consumed around the world, especially in East Asia, and have been considered a delicacy throughout history; for example, fourth century ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle wrote cicada tasting notes in his text Historia Animalium. Cicadas taste best when they are newly hatched with soft exoskeletons, and their plant-based diet gives them an asparagus-like flavor when eaten raw or boiled. They taste “nutty” when roasted, and many people enjoy them deep-fried with hot mustard or cocktail sauce. Cicadas are an excellent source of protein, providing about the same amount as red meat by the pound.
Whole spiders are a common treat in Cambodia and a source of pride for Skuon, located just north of Phnom Pen. This small town is becoming known for its extreme cuisine, and tourists make the trek to sample fried tarantulas. According to one visitor, who describes in detail how a tarantula tastes segment by segment, the legs taste “crunchy” with little flesh, the head and body’s delicate white meat resembles a “cross between chicken and cod”, and the globular abdomen is “full of dark brown paste” containing unsettling spider bits. The abdomen’s “gooey nuttiness” followed by a “musty, somewhat rude finish” is an acquired taste.
The taste of roasted wasp larvae has been described as “soft” and “eggy”, and one popular way to eat them is cooked in soy sauce and sugar, a snack called hachinoko in Japan. The taste has been described as “sweet and crunchy” or “spongy” and like “rice… drowned in soy sauce”.
Scorpions are prepared on the streets of Vietnam, Thailand and China by skewering them live and deep-frying them in oil, creating a snack that has been described as tasting crispy and airy and drawing comparisons to popcorn and soft-shell crab. Other ways to prepare this arachnid include roasting, grilling or eating them live (for which the stinger must be removed). One account describes the flavor of scorpion as “bitter” and “vaguely fish-tasting”.
Would you ever eat bugs? While the thought of consuming creepy-crawlies might make your stomach turn, entomophagy - eating insects - is actually common practice for many cultures in Africa, Asia and South America.
Scientists seeking a solution for the global food crisis pinpoint insects as an excellent sustainable protein source that is low in fat and high in essential vitamins and minerals. Farming insects is also environmentally friendly because the practice produces 10% of the methane livestock emits and uses much less land and water.
We don't anticipate insects invading your local restaurant's menu any time soon, as many people in Western nations believe bugs are "dirty", "unsafe" and all around yucky. However, eating bugs is a regular part of the diet for 80 percent of the world's population, and it's hard to ignore the growing edible-insect movement in America. To help you get to know your possible future food source, feast your eyes on these eight edible bugs.
Check out the slideshow above to discover eight edible bugs.
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