While the idea of eating bugs may remind you more of extreme game shows than a tasty dinner, an estimated 2 billion people worldwide eat bugs as one of their primary food sources. And with more than 2,000 species of edible bugs across the globe, there are lots of options. In the United States, entomophagy or eating insects is uncommon but there are some early adopters that are changing minds by way of the vast environmental benefits of choosing crickets over cattle. Feeling adventurous? Try this trend with these commonly craved critters.
Grasshoppers – High in protein, grasshoppers are one of the more familiar items on the edible bug menu. Once a common staple food for indigenous Americans in the southwest United States, grasshoppers are common fare in Mexico where they are enjoyed roasted with spices and a side of guacamole.
Crickets – A relative of the grasshopper, crickets are also high in protein and one of the more well-known edible bugs. Crickets have been showing up as a novel ingredient in specialty dog and cat treats, and after some TV exposure, many are venturing to try cricket flour in dishes meant for people too. Crickets can also be pan roasted on their own and used in place of traditional protein sources in many dishes.
Scorpions – Fried or roasted on wooden skewers, scorpions have been a common street food in places like China and Thailand for decades (stinger and poison removed, of course). Scorpions as a food trend is gaining ground in the southwestern part of the United States for more adventurous eaters.
Mealworms – Mealworms have long been cultivated as food for birds and pet reptiles. With a nutrient profile similar to beef, more and more people are giving mealworms a try as a more environmentally sound alternative to the massive resources required for beef production. Forward-thinking chefs are using mealworms in new and original ways for patrons to try.
Palm Grubs – Palm grubs are the larvae of the palm weevils, a frequent food source in tropical areas of the Americas, Africa and Southeast Asia. The grubs are high in fat and essential fatty acids and are eaten both cooked and raw, though those new to edible bugs will likely prefer the cooked version.
Mopane Caterpillars – With higher iron content than beef, mopane caterpillars are quickly becoming an important food source to combat anemia in regions of South Africa where iron-deficiency anemia is common for women and children. This edible bug could be used in similar ways in the US in populations and areas where iron-deficiency is prevalent.
Edible bugs are more common than it might seem when you expand beyond the US and look at global food sources. A word of caution before hunting in the backyard for a unique dining experience: many bugs in urban or suburban areas are more likely to have pesticides on them; avoid bugs with bright colors or strong odors as they are often poisonous; take a pass on hairy bugs as the “hairs” may be or harbor stingers; and always cook your bugs to kill any parasites and to make them more digestible. Your best bet is to buy edible bugs from reputable resources or in restaurants that specialize in this food trend. And, if you have questions about bugs, visit www.thepestforce.com.