Manataka™ American Indian Council
By Aletheia Price
Indian Use of Insects for Food
Edible insects; you may feel that these two words do not even belong in the same sentence. You have every right to be skeptical. In all probability, you have never deliberately ate an insect. However you have probably inadvertently consumed over a pound of insects in your lifetime.
consumption adds up. Flour beetles, weevils, and other insect pests
that infest granaries are milled along with the grain, finally
ending up as tiny black specks in your piece of bread. Small grubs
and other tiny insects can be found in your fruit and vegetables.
Insects are especially common in canned and other types of processed
food, and even in certain beverages; I once went on a tour of an
apple orchard and while the group was viewing the area where they
separate the rotten and bug infested fruits from the good ones, I
asked the tour guide what they did with the bug infested apples. She
told me that they use them to make cider; waste not, want not! It is
virtually impossible that you have not ingested insects in one form
or another during your lifetime. And it probably did not harm you,
but instead did you some good by providing extra protein in your
There are a number of points that I would like to make:
Some insects are edible. In fact, most insects are
edible, but there are a few species that are especially palatable,
nutritious, and easily obtainable. I will concentrate on these.
Many species of insects are lower in fat, higher in
protein, and have a better feed to meat ratio than beef, lamb,
pork, or chicken.
Insects are tasty. Really! Even if you are too
squeamish to have them as a main dish, you can make insect flour
and add it to bread and other dishes for an added protein boost.
Insects are easy to raise. There is no manure forking.
No hay bale lifting. No veterinary bills. You can raise them in an
apartment without getting complaints.
Insects are beautiful. I think that all insects are
beautiful, but most people I know will marvel at the iridescence
of a butterfly, but shudder at the striping of a
Most people do not mind butchering insects. The
butchery of insects is very simple compared with that of cattle or
poultry, and nowhere near as gory.
Raising insects is environmentally friendly. They
require minimal space per pound of protein produced, have a better
feed to meat ratio than any other animal you can raise, and are
very low on the food chain. They are healthy, tasty, and have been
utilized for the entire history of mankind (after all, it is
easier to catch a grub than a mammoth).
Also, as far as I know, no animal rights activists
object to the eating of insects. You don't need to destroy any
wildlife habitat to eat insects, and you can incorporate insects
and earthworms into a recycling program......vegetable waste in,
yummy insect protein out.
O.k., I admit the slight possibility of
disadvantages... The only real problem you may run into while utilizing
insect protein is the lack of social acceptance. That is why we
sensible insect eaters must make it our duty to educate the public
about the value of insect protein. You may encounter widespread
disbelief, "You're kidding me. You don't eat insects!", revulsion
"Yuck! You eat insects!?! ", Press on! Remember, insects are the
food of the future, and you are paving the way for future
a better name than insect eating?
Why yes, there is. The word is Entomophagy. You would think that a word this melodious would be in common usage, but sadly this is not the case. In fact, you probably have never heard this word before (unless you happen to be a friend). Find ways to interject the word entomophagy in casual conversation, as in: "Did I ever tell you about the array of culinary options revealed through the study of entomophagy ?"
Random Entomophagy Factoids
In case you need a little more persuasion:
There are 1,462 recorded species of edible insects. Doubtless there are thousands more that simply have not been tasted yet. 100 grams of cricket contains: 121 calories, 12.9 grams of protein, 5.5 g. of fat, 5.1 g. of carbohydrates, 75.8 mg. calcium, 185.3 mg. of phosphorous, 9.5 mg. of iron, 0.36 mg. of thiamin, 1.09 mg. of riboflavin, and 3.10 mg. of niacin.
Compare this with ground beef, which, although it contains more protein (23.5 g.), also has 288.2 calories and a whopping 21.2 grams of fat!
How to Obtain Edible Insects
By far the most difficult part of attempting any insect recipe is acquiring the necessary ingredients. Insects are rarely sold in supermarkets, nor, aside from various novelty items, are there many pre prepared insect food products. Therefore, those who wish to eat insects must acquire them either by catching insects in the wild, by buying insects from pet stores or bait shops, or by raising their own.
Catching insects in the wild, unless you're fortunate enough to live in a rural area, is a laborious and potentially dangerous task. I advise this type of insect collection only if you're sure that the insects you're collecting are edible (doyous...), and that the area where you're collecting is free of pesticides. Cicadas, field crickets, grasshoppers, grubs, tomato horn worms, and so forth, are among the edible insects one is likely to find on such hunting expeditions.
Buying insects is the easiest way to get edible insects, but it is also the most expensive (ain't it always the way?). Most pet stores and bait shops carry crickets and mealworms, two of the most easily raised and prepared insect species. You can also buy these insects in bulk from various insect suppliers. The only preparation that you need give to insects acquired in this manner is that of feeding them for a few days on fresh grain; most insects you buy at bait shops or pet stores have been eating newspaper, sawdust, or similarly unsavory packing material, which, while completely harmless, might affect the insect's taste if you ate them while the material was still in their digestive tract.
Raising insects, in my opinion, is the optimum way of ensuring a steady supply of palatable insects. While not entirely as convenient as simply popping into the pet store whenever you need insects, it is far cheaper, more environmentally friendly, and more rewarding in the long run.
How to Prepare Insects for Cooking
Those who are accustomed to eating animals probably know that most animals must be killed, cleaned, and cooked before one can eat them. The case is similar with insects. While there are many people in other countries who prefer to eat insects live and raw, and while it is true that you could probably get the most nutrients that way, I prefer food that won't crawl off my plate. I have tried eating live ants and mealworms, and in fact present a "recipe" for live insect consumption below; however, I would advise that beginning insect eaters start with cooked insects.
To prepare a batch of crickets or mealworms:
Take the desired quantity of live insects, rinse them off and then pat them dry. This procedure is easy to do with mealworms, but fairly hard to do with crickets. To do so with crickets, pour them all into a colander and cover it quickly with a piece of wire screening or cheesecloth. Rinse them, then dry them by shaking the colander until all the water drains. Then put the crickets or mealworms in a plastic bag and put them in the freezer until they are dead but not frozen. Fifteen minutes or so should be sufficient. Then take them out and rinse them again. You don't really have to clean mealworms, though if you want, you can chop off their heads. Cricket's heads, hind legs, and wing cases can be removed according to personal preference; I like doing so, since cricket legs tend to get stuck in your teeth. You are now ready to use the insects in all kinds of culinary treats!
Mealworm Chocolate Chip Cookies
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup oats
1/2 cup chocolate chips
1/4 cup mealworm flour
well, then mix in sugar, egg, vanilla flour, salt, baking soda,
chocolate chips, oats, and mealworm flour. Drop batter by the
teaspoonful on a greased cookie sheet. Bake for 10 minutes at 375
degrees farenheit. This recipe doesn't have much in the way of
palpable insect content, but is an excellent way to introduce others
(or yourself!) to entomophagy. Even many rather squeamish people
will try mealworm cookies, since the cookie format doesn't look
"gross" to most people, and since it is rather difficult to actually
taste the mealworms, though they enrich the cookie with a somewhat
nutty flavor and extra protein.
To make insect flour:
Spread your cleaned insects out on a lightly greased cookie sheet. Set your oven 200 degrees and dry insects for approximately 1-3 hours. When the insects are done, they should be fairly brittle and crush easily. Take your dried insects and put them into a blender or coffee grinder, and grind them till they are about consistency of wheat germ. Use in practically any recipe! Try sprinkling insect flour on salads, add it to soups, your favorite bread recipe, on a boat, with a goat, etc.
Chocolate Covered Crickets
Several squares of semisweet chocolate
the crickets as described above. Bake at 250 degrees until crunchy
(the time needed varies from oven to oven). Heat the squares of semi
sweet chocolate in a double boiler until melted. Dip the dry roasted
crickets in the melted chocolate one by one, and then set the
chocolate covered crickets out to dry on a piece of wax paper.
Enjoy! This is a little time consuming to make, but definitely worth
it...the crickets are deliciously crunchy!
Ant Brood Tacos
2 tablespoons butter or peanut oil?
1/2 pound ant larvae and pupae
3 serrano chilies, raw, finely chopped
1 tomato, finely chopped
Pepper and Cumin, to taste
Oregano, to taste
1 handful cilantro, chopped
Taco shells, to serve
Heat the butter or
oil in a frying pan and fry the larvae or pupae. Add the chopped
onions, chilies, and tomato, and season with salt. Sprinkle with
ground pepper, cumin, and oregano, to taste. Serve in tacos and
garnish with cilantro. (Not living in an area exceptionally prolific
with ants, I have never been able to try this recipe. But it sounds
perfectly delicious! I found it in 'Creepy Crawly Cuisine', an
excellent recipe book.)
As many mealworms as you can sanely eat
Open mouth. Insert live mealworms. Chew. Swallow.
You can eat almost every kind of edible insect raw; however, this method of eating insects should only be performed on insects that you keep yourself or know are free from pesticides. Do not snag passing cockroaches, ants, or termites in an urban area unless you have developed a natural immunity to pesticides. And don't forget to wash your insects before eating them!
Raising mealworms (Tenebrio Molitor) is quite easy and recommended for the beginner. Simply take a flat plastic tub with a lid, fill it with an inch or so of oats or other grain, put in a slice of potato, carrot or other hard vegetable as a source of water, and then deposit your mealworms!
Make sure to
replace the slice of potato fairly frequently, otherwise you will be
growing mold instead of mealworms.
The mealworms you get at the store are in their larval stage, and it may be a few months before they mature into beetles, so be patient. 100 mealworm larvae is a good colony start if you are not going to be eating them very often. If you wish to make insect protein a regular part of your diet, you can obtain mealworms in bulk from reptile food supply companies and start a large colony (5000 or more is the way to start in this case).
If you have an ant problem in your area, you should float the mealworm tub in a dish of soapy water to prevent ants from infesting your grain. However, unlike crickets, mealworms are unlikely to escape unless you are hideously careless.
Crickets are quite easy to raise and prepare, and the main problem is making sure that they don't escape. Crickets can be kept in any fairly large container with high sides and a tight fitting lid. An aquarium is a good choice. Put a couple inches of potting soil on the bottom of the container.
This will be
where the crickets deposit their eggs. Put several egg cartons in
the aquarium for the crickets to roost on. Then, place a small
container of grains and vegetable scraps in for food, and a
container of moist cotton balls for water. Add 50-100 crickets. Mist
the potting soil lightly every few days, and make sure that the
crickets always have fresh food. You can probably start harvesting
the crickets within a few months.
Crickets are escape artists!!! It is a good idea to put a rock on top of the lid to ensure that you don't accidentally knock it off. It is also a good idea to float the container in a tub of soapy water. Unlike mealworms, it is almost impossible to recapture crickets once they escape, and crickets may start infesting your house if they get out while you're on vacation (don't panic, though... they rarely cause any real damage to food or furnishings). I would really recommend that you start with mealworms if you are new to insect raising.
By Aletheia Price, Age 17
Indian Use of Insects for Food
Edible Unique - Gourmet Exotic - Edible Bugs
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