The subject of how to eat insects is, in my humble opinion, repulsive. There’s no other way to describe it. Ever get a slight shiver watching in horror as a centipede or silverfish scurry across the kitchen floor? I can hardly come to grips with the thought that they gained entry into my private and safe, so I thought, home. In fact, I can’t. I just close my eyes and pretend I didn’t see what I know I did.
The pest control industry in the United States alone is a $10 billion a year business. Seems I’m not the only one that hates insects. I fear I may have one of those weird phobias, like people scared to death of clowns, but will for some UN-explicable reason run to the circus, because I started doing some research on pest control. Why not? Isn’t it wise to know your enemy? Problem is, I was surprised to find what I did.
The United States pest industry deals with the eradication of all types of insects, bar none. Canada, about the same, but due to their climate their pest problem is not really a problem. Australia begins to get a little weird with their pest control issues because of all the poisonous critters they have to contend with. However, beginning with Mexico I found the rest of the world didn’t treat insect eradication with the same evil intent I had. In fact, I discovered there seemed to be more “How to eat insect” recipes than how to get rid of them articles.
As a child do you recall your Mother asking “How do you know you don’t like it? You haven’t even tasted it.” as I scowled downward at the squashed green peas. To this day, and I ain’t no child, I hate green peas. But it got me to wondering, if millions, perhaps billions of people around the world eat insects, there must be something to it. So I set out into the insect infested jungles, from my office chair, and this is some of what I discovered.
There are nearly one million variations of insects on the planet, that’s disgusting, but only fifteen hundred have been confirmed as totally safe for human consumption. I was surprised to find that the illness and symptoms that people who are allergic to shellfish, are also provoked by eating insects. They are somehow related from 10 million years ago.
Insects are full of protein, calcium, iron and zinc. As a food source they are 20 times more efficient to raise than cattle and contain more protein per pound than cattle.
There are 235 butterfly and moth species, 344 beetles, 313 ants, bees and wasp, 239 grasshoppers, crickets and cockroaches, 39 termite, and 20 types of dragonflies and cicadas that are normally eaten in 80% of the world’s countries.
My thoughts turn to fellow survivalist who could benefit from this information. After all, if you’re starving your menu options drastically increase, and knowing which insects are not only safe, but beneficially healthy to eat, is a good tool to have. So let’s explore How to Eat Insects.
Being my glass is half empty instead of half full type of guy, let me throw this at you first. The majority of insects in North America are safe to eat, maybe not palatable, but safe. However, use your head. Don’t eat any insects that are brightly-colored, nature’s method of warning predators they are toxic. Avoid hairy bugs as they may hide stingers.
If you are in doubt of an insect’s edibility, cut off a tiny piece, cook it, eat it and wait a few hours for any adverse symptoms. If there are no negative effects, eat a larger piece. If nothing happens its probably fine to eat.
Whenever possible always cook your insects before eating them, as they may carry parasites or harmful bacteria which cooking will kill, plus it improves the taste as well as making nutrients more digestible.
Super bowl party?
Grasshoppers and Crickets are the most commonly eaten insect world wide. Mexico treats them as a delicacy and serves them with steaks and fillets in fine dining places. They are incredibly high in protein, 77% of the insect, much higher than meat products.
Grasshoppers are the easiest to catch by hand in the early morning when they move more slowly. A better method is to take a plastic bottle, cut the bottom off and bury it in the ground overnight. Drop some over-ripe fruit into the bottle, drop in a few leaves or pieces of cardboard for them to hide under so they won’t try to escape, and in the morning you should have a bottle full of hopping breakfast.
Before eating, pull their heads off, the entails should come out along with it. You can eat the entails, but there is always a risk of parasites. Remove the legs and wings, then roast them in a pan or skew them and roast them over a fire if you have no pan.
Meal-worm is another commonly seen insect in the edible category with a 20% protein rating. Normally the larva is eaten alone, not the worm, but they are often included in pasta dishes.
Ants are everywhere, they are easy to catch and are tasty. The best method for collecting them in abundance is to find an ant hill, kick or disturb the hill, then insert a stick down into the anthill entrance hole. The ants will climb the stick attacking it, withdraw the stick and dunk them into a container of water, then repeat until you have gathered several hundred. Boil them for at least 6 minutes in order to neutralize their body acid. If you can’t cook them, at least be absolutely sure they are dead before eating or else you may experience pain from their bites before being able to swallow them.
Termites are a good source of protein and less likely to carry parasites because they live below ground or inside wood. Search for termites in rotted wood, either manufactured or rotting trees and large limbs. When you find them, shake them from their hiding place into a pan, roast over a flame.
Grubs are those disgusting worm looking creatures you see being eaten on all those survival TV shows. It must be noted they all do not taste disgusting if you can get pass the gag reflex.
Grubs can be found in rotting logs, you may also find termites while searching. Using a rock or other weapon, break the wood apart, then sift through the wood fiber digging the grubs out of the wood. Pinch the head off, they may have pincers large enough to cause pain if bitten, and either eat them raw or preferably roast them.
Wood Lice, also called sow bug or potato bug, is not actually an insect. It’s what’s known as a terrestrial crustacean, the only one located in North America, and tastes like shrimp.
They can be found under rocks and logs, or sift through piles of dead leaves. Be sure to boil the wood lice thoroughly because they can carry nematodes. After 10 to 15 minutes, strain the water and eat them.
Earthworms are of course familiar creatures, but few of us have actually eaten them. Dig in moist soil, decomposing leaf liter, under rocks, etc. to locate them. Worms can be eaten raw, but the risk of parasites is large, so cook them first if at all possible.
Honey bee larvae are prized in many cultures as tasty snack morsels. When sauteed in butter they have a mushroom/bacon taste. The adult bee can also be roasted and eaten.
Cicadas are primarily found in the central and eastern United States. They live underground for 17 years and emerge as molting adults. They have juicy bodies and after roasting are said to be delicious.
Cockroaches are actually edible. There are cockroach farms which raise the insect feeding them fruits and vegetables which enhance their flavor. They can be eaten fried, roasted, sauteed or boiled.
Dragonflies are extremely popular in China and Indonesia where they eat the adult and/or the larvae. They capture adult dragonflies by dipping a reed into a sticky palm sap, wave it through the air and the dragonfly becomes stuck when attracted to the sap. Eaten boiled or fried.
Dung Beetles although disgusting to think about are often eaten fried and are said to be quite tasty.
Fly pupae contains fatty acids that is similar to fish oils. Shaped like small red pills the taste is said to have an iron twinge.
June bugs can be eaten at the larval stage and the adult stage. Native Americans roasted them over hot coals and ate them like popcorn.
Meal-worms are the larva of the meal-worm beetle and are boiled, sauteed, roasted or fried and have a nutty shrimp flavor.
Mopane worm is largely found and eaten in Southern Africa, and when in season fetch higher prices than beef. When dried out they are said to taste like jerky.
Flying Ants of Guatemala, aka Sompopos, are the flying queens of the colony and are roasted with salt and lime. They are said to taste like buttery pork rinds.
Wasps are eaten as adults and larvae. Boiled, sauteed, fried or roasted they have a buttery and earthy taste. Japanese favor boiled wasp served in rice.
Tarantulas are very high in protein and are legend-ed to help boost virility. They are a primary popular food in Cambodia and taste like crab. Don’t eat the fangs.
Scorpions are often skewered and fried, tasting like soft-shell crab. Precautions must be taken when capturing them as their tail located stinger can inflict a painful sting, as well as their pincers hurting.
Water bugs, especially the giant water bug, are popular in Thai cuisine and are consumed whole after cooking.
Jumiles, aka stink bugs are extremely high in vitamin B and are said to taste either bitter or have a cinnamon flavor. They have a tranquilizing effect on the person, and as they seem to be able to survive a normal cooking process, are often eaten alive.
Midge flies are found in East Africa. These pesky flies are caught and pressed into solid blocks which are cooked into Kunga cakes.
Slugs and snails. These are “last resorts” food. Why? Although they in themselves are eatable, there is always a high possibility they have fed on poisonous plants or mushrooms. If you must eat them, keep them in a container for a day or more in order for the toxins to diminish, also feed then plants you know are safe and it will also help dilute any toxins. Be sure to thoroughly cook them to kill any parasites.
These are but a few of the many varieties of eatable insects, but I believe you get the idea, they are high in protein and other valuable minerals and vitamins which could save your life if stranded in the wilderness. Researching how to eat insects has enlightened me, however I must admit … eating that damn centipede scurrying across my kitchen floor is still a disgusting idea.