October 22, 2013

Wild About: Eating insects

Wild About is a celebration of the flora and fauna commonly found in our cities. Instead of fact sheets, this space will showcase books, art, music, societies, and whimsical objects about urban-adaptable plants and animals. If you would like to see your favorite urban-oriented plant or animal featured, please email us at info(at)localecology.org.

Image: Insect hotel designed by Laurie Chetwood and Patrick Collins, Chelsea Flower Show 2011

Note: This installation of Wild About is not strictly urban but there are certainly populations of edible insects thriving in cities.

You've probably seen a recipe in which the lead ingredient is an undesirable plant species aka a weed.  The first recipe of this kind I encountered was the knotweed crumble recipe from the Franklin Park Coalition based in Boston.  These types of recipes are not limited to weedy and invasive plants.  You can eat Asian carp and Asian shore crab.  Check out the websites Eat the Invaders and Invasivore.

Insect-driven recipes are not well represented in these collections.  But insect eating is not uncommon outside the U.S.  In 1996, I was served grilled mopane worms in Botswana; I was not wild about the taste.  Edible insects have been classified as a natural resource by the FAO; eating and farming insects are being promoted as livelihood and food security strategies.

Image: The Very Quiet Cricket, by Eirc Carle

Edible insects may become mainstream fare here soon - and not necessarily the invasive sort.  A couple of weeks ago I attended a lecture on obesity research, institutional dining, and academic farming and learned that a next frontier in farming is edible insects.  Yesterday the New York Times reported on "food from insect" start-ups.  Look out for Chirp Farms' cricket Chirp Chomp bars next year.

Need inspiration for your next meal?  NPR profiled David George Gordon's The Eat-a-Bug Cookbook this summer.  An insect chocolate fondue is the book's cover image!  (If you like to cook with music, consider the Insect Music playlist compiled on YouTube.)

Have you eaten insects?  In addition to mopane worms, I once ate a pack of freeze-dried insects purchased at a natural history museum in Connecticut.

1 comment:

  1. I've never eaten any insects, but I sure have seen plenty when doing stump removal here in St. Louis, Missouri. You can count on seeing crickets, beetles, and grubs under the bark and in decaying stumps. I have heard that if you are to eat insects, you should start with crickets, cicadas, and grasshoppers, along with moths and butterflies.

    Heh, and speaking of those termites, go ahead and eat as much of those as you want. They aren't good for trees!

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