Photo courtesy of Christoph Meinersmann
Did you know that beetles are the most commonly eaten insect around the world? It’s true.
But that doesn’t mean that beetles are where you should start if you’re new to the idea of entomophagy (that’s fancy-talk for eating bugs).
Western cultures have been slow to warm up to the idea of insect eating. But the truth is that in places where insects are a common food, they are eaten because they taste good! People in many parts of Asia and Africa catch a variety of bugs to add flavor to their dishes.
Sure, insects, grubs, and worms are nutritious. But you aren’t really going to get huge amounts of protein from such tiny creatures. The real reason people eat insects is flavor variety.
If you’re interested in trying insects as part of your diet, here are the most palatable edible insect varieties for those who are new to this practice.
Grasshoppers are popular in a lot of areas where insects are consumed regularly. They’re one of the larger varieties of common insects, making them worth the effort to catch and fill your belly.
Here’s the thing about grasshoppers and other insects. They’re usually cooked before they’re eaten, and they cook up crispy and add crunch to your food.
If you want to catch your own grasshoppers, know that they are usually out during the day, and you will hear them chirping. Roast or sauté them, and then remove the legs, antennae, and head.
Cooked grasshoppers are described as tasting like nutty chicken.
Crickets are in the same order of insects as grasshoppers. You can hunt them by following their sound, as well. But crickets are typically out at night.
There are different varieties of crickets, and some are larger than others. They taste very similar to grasshoppers, with a nutty flavor after cooking. That being said, larger varieties have a bit more taste than smaller crickets, which tend to just be crunchy and taste like whatever seasoning you put on them.
You’ll find crickets served as a crunch-factor with sweets, like cookies topped with roasted crickets and suckers with a cricket inside.
Basically, crickets are the popcorn or peanuts of the insect world.
Ants come in a lot of different varieties, and their flavor depends on the variety, the size, and the cooking method (or lack thereof). Ants create an acid used to subdue their prey, and that acid gives them a sour or acidic taste.
It’s safe to eat ants raw if you like that flavor. Some describe it as a mildly citrus taste, like lemon. But a lot of people like to cook ants by boiling them, which reduces the acidity.
Termites may seem tiny and not worth the effort, but they pack a lot of protein and fat energy for their size (though, still not as much as the meat of a larger animal). They’re easy to find and catch in rotting wood (especially the larvae, which don’t have wings yet).
Many people snack on them raw. Uncooked, they are said to taste like pineapple. And after cooking, termites become crunchy and have a mild vegetable flavor.
Although you may be grossed out at the idea of eating insects, the truth is that the majority of edible insects have very mild, palatable flavors. Follow The Tye-Dyed Iguana for more interesting discussions of the animal world, or to buy the kind of edible bugs your lizard eats.