Entomophagy – Insect Banquet!

This is the last week of field entomology – I can’t believe how fast it has gone by!

You can check out my curriculum at the course website (though the materials are password protected). Just about everything was done from scratch. I used some handouts used in previous entomology classes to help me organize my lectures, but otherwise I’ve been on my own. Writing lectures, organizing field trips, driving the field trip van, gathering supplies, creating assignments and quizzes, grading, answering questions, and staying in the lab many hours past class time. I even took the students on a night collecting trip outside of class, which was a blast. These are all reasons why my blog has been ignored – I was warned by the grad student who taught it last year that it would take over my life, and it has. Then I have a week off, then general entomology starts! (I’ll be the TA).

Today I decided to have an insect banquet, to start the last week out with a bang (it ends with the final exam on Friday, when their collections are also due).

Some insects I purchased alive from a pet store, and some I purchased from Dave Gracer of SmallStock Foods. He was able to provide me with a great assortment of insects with very different flavors.

I will save the “reasons why you should eat insects” post for another time – here I will give my reviews of the dishes I made, and how my students reacted! (they got extra credit points for trying every dish, which greatly enhanced enthusiasm)

Chewy Cricket bar (apple cinnamon flavor)
100 crickets (frozen, boiled, baked, ground into cricket flour), dates, cashews, sunflower seeds, chia seeds, almonds, apples, maple syrup, cinnamon.

Delicious dessert. Great way to introduce the concept for the very squeamish. Everyone loved these.

Waxworm hummus
50 waxworm caterpillars (toasted on a hot pan, then ground in a food processor), plain hummus.

Tasty and nutty. Everyone liked this one too. I think it tasted better than the plain hummus.

Periodical cicadas – bacon and chocolate
Periodical cicadas wrapped in bacon and baked in the oven, some baked plain and then dipped in chocolate.

The bacon ones were a yummy combination. The chocolate was so-so.

Ugandan Katydids – Mexican “Chapulines” style
Mexican “chapulines” are grasshoppers cooked in garlic and lime juice. I did that with the katydids.

Tasty, could be crunchier though. Good snack. Hit-or-miss with the students, some didn’t like them, some wanted more.

Stuffed mushrooms with Texas katydids
Texas katydids, green onions, coconut oil, Thai seasoning.

The toughest to eat, mentally. The big legs got stuck in people’s teeth. The bites were too big and you had to chew for too long. The taste wasn’t bad, but the texture got to a lot of people.

Giant Water Bugs
Giant Water Bugs from Thailand, boiled. Thoracic meat eaten with apple slices.

The most daring dish, cooked right here in the lab. Took some work to get the insects open and scoop out the meat. The flavor was very strong – not “I want to spit it out” terrible, but so bizarre none of us knew how to describe it. Buttery, fishy, salty… I can imagine it being tasty in a dish, not so much on its own though.

Here are student reactions before and after trying the water bug:

For more photos of the cooking process and student reactions, check out our class Flickr page!



Posted on August 13, 2012, in Entomophagy. Bookmark the permalink. 10 Comments.

  1. Wow. There are a few of the items that I might have been willing to try, but not too many.

  2. My philosophy is that if you’re eating big ‘bugs’ whole, then you’re best off removing the wings and most of the legs, lest one get tarsi stuck in their teeth!
    Did you de-wing the cicadas?
    I’m not a big bacon fan, but that sure looks like a great way to get past the bug-eyes (I’m not keen on my crustaceans staring at me, either).

    • I agree about removing legs/wings – however I was told that the best way to experience the cicadas was to leave everything on.
      I personally don’t care as much about the experience of eating an insect and enjoying(?) its natural flavors, as I do trying to make them palatable for every-day eating.
      For now I’m sticking with ground up crickets and waxworms.

  3. How about stuffing fruit snacks with honey ants? Even Alex wouldn’t say no to that!

  4. I’ve always wondered about what giant water bugs taste like, but I can’ t bring myself to eat them. The photos and description you provided don’t make me any more inclined to, I’ll admit! That is one seriously unappetizing looking bug! Still, glad to see them on the menu.

    Love this post!

    • Yeah giant water bugs are something I probably wouldn’t eat on my own. The flavor was really strange, and it took a lot of work to get to the meat. Though I bet it would be an interesting flavor added to a dish… if you’re feeling adventurous. (I personally prefer giant water bugs alive, as pets)

  5. That’s being horrible to insects. they are not meant to be eaten. They are suppose to roam free not be killed and eaten. I play my part in nature and help caterpillars grow into butterflies and let them go into nature. I have 8 caterpillars now and one is already a cocoon. You watch your caterpillars. They’ll pay you back one day and all does other insects and bugs you ate. they will pay you back.

  6. I wish there was a class around here like that! I’d want to try everything. I think doing it as a group would suppress the gag-reflex. (If everyone else is eating it, it must be OK, right?)

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Ryerson Lab

Functional Morphology, Sensory Biology, Behavior, Biomechanics

I spell it nature

Trying to make sense of the world through science and language.

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