Tag Archives: edible insects

Recipe: Scare-amel Apples!

Bug out your bell-ringers or party-guests with these tricked-out treats inspired by Hotlix.com. They were a hit at a company office party – not a single bite was left over. The mealworms and crickets provide a nutty crunch and boost of protein. Except for the “thin layer” of caramel, this is a pretty healthy trick- er, treat.

Recipe:

  • Apples
  • Caramel
  • Skewer sticks
  • Waxed paper
  • Bugs

Bake rinsed, frozen bugs (mealworms and crickets work well for a mixed-bug look; mealworms alone will look quite snazzy) on lightly-oiled baking sheets at 350 degree for 10-15 minutes, or until golden and crunchy (will smell like roasted nuts). Be careful not to burn them. Periodically turn or shake pans to ensure uniform roasting.

Shove sticks into apples’ cores, from stem to stern, so apples can sit upright. Melt a handful of caramels in a small pot on medium heat until gooey.  Dip apples into caramel. Once coated, remove, allowing excess to drip off bottom. Roll apple in roasted bugs, and set to cool on waxed paper. Refrigerate until cool.

Once the caramel has hardened, you can slice the apples off the sticks just before serving. Cut in stright lines around the core, and then cut smaller pieces. Bug appetit!

P.S. In the background are Rice Creepy Treats. Mix any leftover roasted buglets into regular Rice Crispies Treats recipe for added nuttiness and protein!

P.P.S. Don’t try to cut apples up beforehand, like this:

Although an interesting experiment, the caramel reacted with the moisture in the apples and became watery. They were very tasty, though!

The New Yorker: Grub

Photo by Hans Gissinger
I got to spend an evening with the fascinating Dana Goodyear while she was preparing to write her wonderful article, “Grub,” for The New Yorker. She accepted an invitation to come over and watch me and David Gracer of Small Stock Foods cook up some bugs for dinner – including one we’d never tried before: the tailless whip scorpion.
 
 
We learned later that tailless whip scorpions had been eaten, live, on Fear Factor, but at the time it was completely new territory for us. Here’s a video of what happened, taken by Ms. Goodyear: http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/newsdesk/2011/08/eating-insects-entomophagy-video.html
 

Tailless whip scorpions, in addition to being tasty, are a great option for arachnophobes-in-therapy: despite their frightening appearance, they have no venom, nor fangs. The worst they will do is pinch you momentarily with their tiny claws, and trust me, it doesn’t hurt (I’ve received worse treatment from adorable green caterpillars). What the whips’ do is wander around, feeling things out with their extra-long antenna-like sensory legs, and catch prey with their pincers. They’re quite lovely and meditative to watch, actually, though they can move fast when they want to.

Because they are hard to come by, we recommend sticking to more common grub, like crickets and larvae. However, the whips’ are great examples of how our eyes can play tricks on us when it comes to insects and arachnids: they generally aren’t as scary or as gross as we think they are.

What Do Bugs Taste Like, Anyway?

(Reposted from the Huffington Post.)

It may have crawled into your consciousness lately that edible insects are the new green thing: they are extremely sustainable to raise, requiring far fewer resources than other forms of livestock, and they produce fewer greenhouse gas-causing emissions per pound of protein. To put this into perspective, a pound of crickets requires nearly 1000 times less water to produce than a pound of beef, and the livestock sector has been credited with contributing more GHGs than transport. Meanwhile, insects are highly nutritious (crickets contain more iron and calcium than beef); and are eaten in more cultures than not, putting the US, and our bug-sneering ways, in the minority.

Green is good, agree most folks. But how do they taste?

With nearly 1500 edible insect species to choose from, it’s a complex question to answer. How many different types of meat have you sampled in your lifetime? Most people never get beyond the standard dozen-plus basics of chicken, beef, pork, lamb, and 5-10 kinds of fish. Compared to the 250 varieties of insect eaten in Mexico alone, this is a fairly limited flavor palette — the “beginner box” of culinary Crayolas.

Insects, on the other hand, represent the majority of the animal biomass on earth. They have thousands of different habitats, and many of them are dependent on eating just one type of plant, creating a kaleidoscope of flavor potentials. There are, however, some generalities.

On the whole, insects tend to taste a bit nutty, especially when roasted. I believe this comes from the natural fats they contain, combined with the crunchiness of their mineral-rich exoskeletons. Crickets, for instance, taste like nutty shrimp, whereas most larvae I’ve tried have a nutty mushroom flavor. My two favorites, wax moth caterpillars (AKA “wax worms”) and bee larvae, taste like enoki-pine nut and bacon-chanterelle, respectively.

Recently, when I served this grub at the LA Natural History Museum’s Big Bug Cook-off, one kid on the judging panel said my “Alice in Wonderland” dish of sauteed waxworms and oyster mushrooms tasted like Macaroni and Cheese, while the rest agreed that my “Bee-LT Sandwich” tasted like it was made with real bacon. Bug-con. Bee-con?

The term “bug,” while having a specific taxonomic meaning, is also used as an umbrella term to include land-arthropods in general, including arachnids, like scorpions and spiders. The arachnids often taste like a light, earthy version of shellfish, crab and lobster in particular. This makes sense, since from a biological stand point, bugs and crustaceans are quite closely related. However, the air-breathing group of invertebrates has one distinct advantage over its sea-steeped brethren: they aren’t bottom feeders. Scorpions, tarantulas, and other edible arachnids all catch their prey live, unlike a crab which may be just as happy to feast on detritus.

These examples are fairly tame and recognizable; most people can swallow the idea of nutty mushrooms and earthy shellfish. But there are flavors in the bug world that can hardly be equated with anything familiar. The giant water bug, also known as a toe-biter, practically defies description; as one writer enthused after his first time eating them, “There is simply nothing in the annals of our culture to which I can direct your attention that would hint at the nature of [its] flavor.”

For the sake of this article, however, I will do my best to capture the experience: when fresh, these aggressive beetles have a scent like a fresh green apple. Large enough yield tiny filets, they taste like melon soaked in banana-rose brine, with the consistency of red snapper. It’s no wonder their extract is a common ingredient in Thai sauces.

Conservative eaters are likely to prefer to stick to what they know, but if you’re anything like me, you’ll find this galaxy of mysterious new flavors simply too compelling to resist. Meanwhile, your home planet will thank you for choosing a more sustainable source of protein, and you’ll wonder why you ever thought eating bugs was in bad taste.

Bug appetit!