You will be surprised to discover how many insects are eaten across the world and what they taste like. Please do not treat this list as a cookbook, as most wild insects are not as safe to eat. None of them should be eaten raw, either. Of course, if you are allergic to shrimp, shellfish, or dust, never eat an insect, even a cooked one.
12. Periodical Cicadas
These legendary insects live underground for 17 years before emerging and molting into adults: there is a special schedule of different broods for the US, and many people collect them before their shell hardens. These cicadas can be sauteed or fried like shrimps, and are said to taste almost like a tender crab meet with asparagus notes. Different species of cicada are valued and eaten across Asia.
You can eat some species of cockroaches, just not your domestic ones! Food grade cockroaches are farmed on fresh fruits and leaves and then toasted, fried, sauteed, or boiled. Raw Madagascar Hissing Cockroaches contain a mild neurotoxin that numbs the mouth and throat of a human; once cooked, these 7 cm creatures are described tasting like “chicken, both greasy and crunchy.”
House crickets (Acheta domesticus) are among the most commonly eaten and farmed insects in the world. They can be milled into flour, sauteed, boiled, fried, and roasted. While they are still categorized as novelty food in Western countries, they are regularly eaten in Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, and Mexico. In Thailand, where deep-fried crickets are a popular snack, 20 000 farms are raising them, and the annual production reaches 7 to 8000 tons.
That is because their food conversion ration is almost five times that of beef! Crickets can also be turned into a supplement by feeding them a desired mineral or vitamin before consumption; this is called “gut loading.”
Earthworms are eaten by the native Ye’kuana tribe of Venezuela. However, it is a terrible idea to eat earthworms collected in the wild as they are literally full of parasites, and it is not possible to clean out the contents of their digestive systems sufficiently. If you are eager to add earthworms to your diet, earworms raised safely can be purchased powdered or dried online. They are said to have an “iron” aftertaste.
6. Fly Pupae
There are several species of edible grasshoppers. Chapulins (Sphenarium genus) are very popular in Mexico: during the season, from May until autumn, they are collected, cleaned and washed, and then roasted on comal. They are sold like chips with salt, spices, chili, or lime. They are eaten as popcorn during sports events, in tacos, or on a tlayuda.
In 2007, chapulines from the Oaxacan were temporarily prohibited as they were found to contain high amounts of led. Nsenene grasshopper is a Ugandan snack that is fried until crispy and is said to taste like “a mix of chicken and shrimp if it had a texture of a crisp.”
4. Huhu Grub
This larva looks like huge maggots burrowing rotting wood. Despite this description and the texture of a fat sack, they are treated as a delicacy in New Zealand. They are sauteed or cooked similarly to seafood. The taste is described as “smooth peanut butter.”
Hornworms are caterpillars of Five-spotted hawk moth (Manduca quinquemaculata). They can grow as big as an adult finger and have to be kept away from tomatoes anyway, so it is an excellent way to get back at them for chewing on your patch. Tomato Hornworms can be fried up much the same as the fruit of the plant on which they feed.
After being cooked, they taste a bit like green tomatoes or tomato leaves. Here is the recipe suggestion (it comes from a fiction novel, so take it with a grain of salt): “lightly fry the hornworms in a wok with olive oil for about 4 minutes, taking care not to rupture them. Set them aside. Fry green tomato slices as you normally do. Top with two hornworms each.”
2. June Bug
Native Americans collected June bugs (Phyllophaga) in both larval and adult stages. They were roasted over coals and eaten as snacks.
Pesticides used to protect crops from locusts can make them unsuitable for human consumption, so not all locusts can be eaten, and the harvested stock should be tested. Up to these days, Locusts (Pantanga Succinct and others) are eaten in Asia and Africa, including the Middle East.
The Bible records that John the Baptist consumed wild honey and locusts during his life in the wilderness. Some locusts are listed as kosher in Torah, and eating locust is halal in Islamic tradition. Locusts are thoroughly cleaned, fried, roasted, and eaten as snacks. Because locusts occur in large amounts than can be consumed immediately, and the time between swarmings, they are also preserved by smoking or drying.
What does the hornworm taste like?
After being cooked, they taste a bit like green tomatoes or tomato leaves.
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