Six-legged recipes

Six-legged recipes

Biologist Mary Liz Jameson shares her favourite insect meals

So you are sitting down for a meal, or maybe just thinking about what to make for dinner. What sounds good to eat? Maybe you want a stir-fried dish of bees? If you have a sweet tooth, you might want to try some chocolate covered crispy ants.

Even though these may not be your typical foods, they are nutritional. They have protein and fats that we need to live. In fact, there are some countries where a good dish of insects is just the perfect meal. From tasty ants to grasshoppers and delicious grub worms, many cultures eat insects as part of their diet.

Fried-silkworm-pupae-china_Steven G. Johnson

Larvae for sale - one has a bite out of it (c) Steven G. Johnson

Let's Eat Insects!

When travelling to study beetle biodiversity, I have tasted the delights of a few cultures - leaf cutter ants in the markets of Chiapas, Mexico (sold like popcorn in greasy paper bags), Mopani worms (always enjoyed with a cold coke) sold in the super markets of South Africa and ants found right in the middle of the Great Plains (taste just like lemonade)!

Insects are an important food source throughout the world, and they are an ecologically sound food source as well. South African children collect grasshoppers of on the way home from school and are getting a high protein and high calorie snack. Two grasshoppers pack more protein than a quarter pound of hamburger!  Insects are delicious and nutritious.

Mealworms for human consumption

Mealworms for human consumption (c) Pengo

So you think insects are yucky?

American mouth-watering delicacies include a butter-soaked Atlantic lobster, spicy crayfish etoufee, and sweet Dungeness crab. Their kin, the insects, are no different! Three inch long water bugs, favourites in Asia, are prepared and eaten the same way Americans prepare and eat lobster. The sea-dwelling relatives of the insects feed on dead stuff at the bottom of the ocean. Compare this to caterpillars that feed on clean, green leaves; grasshoppers that feed on native prairie grasses; bee larvae that are fed pure flower nectar; and nutty-tasting larvae that feed on whole grains.

Curious about how to cook and eat insects? Check out Mary's recipes on Ask a Biologist, including this one for chocolate covered crispies. What's the crispy ingredient?!

Original article by Mary Liz Jameson and CJ Kazilek on Ask a Biologist

Curriculum information

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