University of Maryland entomologist Paula Shrewsbury reaches for a cookie with a cicada nymph on Monday, May 17, 2021 in Columbia, Maryland (AP Photo / Carolyn Kaster)
Cicadas are poised to attack swaths of American backyards this summer. Maybe it’s time to break into your kitchen.
Swarms of the red-eyed beetles, which reappear after 17 years underground, offer amateur cooks the opportunity to turn the tables and make snacks.
Full of protein, gluten-free, low-fat, and low-carb, cicadas were used as a source of food by Native Americans and are still eaten by humans in many countries.
“We really need to overcome our aversion to insects, which is very strong and ingrained in most people in our culture,” said David George Gordon, author of the Eat-a-Bug Cookbook and known as the Bug Chef.
“You could make scrambled eggs. You can mix them in batter to make bread – let’s make banana bread, let’s say. You can beat and deep fry them which I think would be my favorite method, ”he said.
This year’s group is called Brood X and can be seen in 15 eastern states from Indiana to Georgia to New York. Their cacophonic mating singing can drown out the noise of passing jets.
When the soil warms up sufficiently, cicadas emerge from the soil, where, depending on the species, they have been sucking moisture from tree roots for 13 or 17 years. They shed their exoskeletons, attach themselves to branches, mate, and lay eggs before dying in about six weeks.
When eating adult cicadas, it is advisable to peel off the wings and legs to reduce the crispness. But Gordon advises home cooks to collect the cicadas when they’re nymphs, before their body armor hardens and they’re still soft and tough, like soft-shelled crabs.
He puts them in the freezer, a humane way of killing them. Once thawed, cicadas can become a pizza topping like sundried tomatoes or replace shrimp in any recipe. Others have followed suit, including a University of Maryland cookbook dedicated to the cicada.
“People can’t really handle looking at a beetle and eating it. That’s why I like tempura batter or something that just hides the nymph’s features, ”Gordon said. “I also eat anything that is fried. I have a recipe for a fried tarantula spider in my book and they are really good. “
Gordon’s “Eat-a-Bug Cookbook” was published in 1998 and was greeted with hostility and jokes by nighttime TV presenters. “But of course it’s been moving towards normalization in the last 20 years,” he said.
Gordon pointed to the rise of foodie culture and thrill-seeking eaters like chef Andrew Zimmer, but more specifically a 2013 report by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization highlighted the turning point in interest in edible insects. The report estimates that insect eating is regularly practiced by at least 2 billion people around the world and that dozens of species are documented as edible, including cicadas.
It also explained that edible insects are high in protein and good fats, high in calcium, iron, and zinc, emit fewer greenhouse gases than most farm animals, and require very little land or water.
“Now people took what I’d been saying all along more seriously,” said Gordon. In America, “we’re kind of weirdo: 80% of the world’s cultures eat insects, but we’re in that 20% who think it’s an abomination.”
The number of mass-produced foods containing insects – from protein bars to chips to pasta sauce – has increased. In parts of Asia, some insects are sold in bags like salted peanuts or in tubes like stacked potato chips. A German company makes burgers from mealworms.
“They are a much healthier option for the planet,” said Dr. Jenna Jadin, evolutionary biologist and ecologist who has worked as a climate consultant for UN agencies such as the Food and Agriculture Organization. “Especially against the background that we will shortly have to feed 9 billion people.”
Jadin laughingly realizes that the mighty, expensive lobster was once considered so repulsive in the West that it was fed to prisoners. “Perceptions change,” she says.
She notes that the Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that around 18% of global greenhouse gas emissions are due to animal husbandry.
Adventurous eaters could start insects at the Newport Jerky Company, which has stores in Massachusetts and Rhode Island and a vibrant online presence. The insect section includes a bag of grasshoppers for $ 9.99 or chocolate-covered crickets for $ 6.99.
Co-owner Derek Medico said he sells one item – a mixed bag for $ 9.99 of dehydrated grasshoppers, mole crickets, silkworms, crickets, and sago worms – a thousand times a year. “I think a lot of it is just the new,” he said.
And he doesn’t expect to see constant demand for insects anytime soon.
“In other countries and other cultures, it’s a lot more accepted and a lot more normal,” he said. “But here I just think it will only take a while.”
—Mark Kennedy, The Associated Press
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