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“How Do You Like Your Grubs Cooked?”

By Chris Williams on April 26, 2012.

Insects, like lobster, are best if cooked while alive or fresh frozen. In contrast to beef, lamb, and poultry, postmortem changes rapidly render insects unpalatable. To facilitate meal planning, many species of insects may be kept alive for several days in the refrigerator. In fact, refrigeration before cooking is advised for the more active forms because it slows down their movements and facilitates handling.This is useful advice from the University of Kentucky website, “Bug Food: Edible Insects” at http://www.ca.uky.edu/entomology/dept/bugfood1.asp

In many cultures, insects and other arthropods have long been eaten as a food staple (they’re full of protein), or as a delicacy. The eating of insects by people is referred to as “entomophagy.” At one time, all humans added insects to their diet. Did our forebears eat locusts as revenge after the locusts ate their crops? Today, eating insects is largely limited to tribal or native peoples in developing countries, but many advocates are trying to get us to add insects to our civilized diets. Insects are cheap, nutritious, plentiful, and they take up less space than cows.

entomophagySome of the insects most commonly eaten in other cultures are mealworms, crickets, cicadas, beetle larvae, caterpillars, grasshoppers, and ants. Mealworms and crickets can be obtained from bait and tackle shops or pet stores, or ordered from distributors. Some other insects you’ll have to collect on your own. Cicadas, those noisy insects that spend up to 17 years underground, are eaten in many countries, especially in Asia. They are delicious when roasted or fried (remove wings first). A single cicada from Malaysia, which has an 8-inch wingspan, is almost a meal. Or you can try yellowjacket larvae which reportedly are like eating grapes. When you first bite in, they’re very tough, but then explode in your mouth with a sweet, nutty flavor.

Here’s a use for all of those stink bugs that have become overwintering pests in our homes. In certain regions of Mexico, people make a salsa that has as its main ingredient, crushed “jumiles” or a type of stink bug. The bugs reportedly have an aromatic and distinctive flavor like mint or cinnamon. We do report that the odor of our invasive stink bugs smells like cilantro, so this makes sense. The stink bugs are also eaten live in tacos.

When the New York Entomological Society planned its 100th Anniversary Banquet, it just seemed logical to dine on its subject of study. The international menu included cricket and vegetable tempura, sautéed Thai water bugs, and roasted Australian kurrajong grubs that “tasted just like a very fine, lean sausage.”

If you want to try your hand at cooking insects, at Amazon.com you can purchase the “Eat-a-Bug Cookbook,” “Creepy Crawly Cuisine,” or “Entertaining with Insects.” The Iowa State University Entomology Department has several insect recipes at its web site such as Banana Worm Bread and Rootworm Beetle Dip. You can try the recipe for their Chocolate Chirple Chip Cookies at http://www.ent.iastate.edu/misc/insectsasfood/chirpie.html If you haven’t guessed; the secret ingredient is dry-roasted crickets.

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