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Let’s talk about insects! For Western cultures, cooking and eating insects is considered off-putting. However, in other regions such as Africa and Asia, bugs have been part of the diet for a long time. But things are changing. We are starting to see how consuming insects, as a source of proteins instead of meat, might have a massive and positive impact on the environment, especially greenhouse gases. 

Why Should We Eat Insects? 

Let’s face it, the world’s population is rising and the Earth’s resources are finite. Raising beef for meat takes time (2 years), space for it to feed (if the cow is lucky enough to graze outside), use land just for food supplements (especially in the winter when the animals are kept inside,), use a lot of water and make up for a total of 15% of greenhouse gases emission. 

Insects, on the other hand, do not use as many resources. They grow quickly, can be raised very locally and don’t take too much place (you could literally grow them at home). They can be fed with leftovers and their droppings can be used as fertilizer. 

This is in addition to the fact that bugs are a great source of minerals, vitamins and proteins. 

Insect stalls in Bangkok
Insect-based food spread in Bangkok by Takoradee – Wikimédia – CC BY-SA 3.0

Which Insects Are Fit for Cooking? 

A 2013 report by the. Food and Agriculture Organization, mentions that there are nearly 2,000 species of edible insects on the planet. That is quite a lot! In Europe and the US, the number of species allowed for sale or use is limited (mostly crickets, locusts, worms…) so you can be sure that they are safe to eat. There is just one restriction: if you have a shellfish allergy, there is a good chance you will react to insects since insects and shellfishes are closely related. Be sure to check the allergens warning label. 

What if, for instance, you get lost for days in the wild and need to feed? The rule of thumb is to avoid brightly colored bugs. Those colors are in fact a warning to predators meaning that they are not good to eat. 

Fried Tarantulas in Cambodia
Fried Tarantulas in Cambodia

How to Cook and Eat Insects? 

There can be different ways to cook insects: grilled, steamed, fried… You can cook them whole or they can be used as ingredients for instance, in protein bars. This might be a great way to start for the more squeamish since the bugs are ground and mixed into the bar’s filling. 

For the next step, we recommend you try crickets. They are small, quite neutral in taste (this is where seasoning and a good sauce can do miracles if you are a little afraid to try). 

If you’d like to go a little further and give cooking insects a try, here are a couple of tips. 

  1. The first one is that you have to know about the taste of the insect you’re cooking with. Some will be quite bland but others will have a taste, which you need to consider, just like any ingredients you would use in a recipe. Some insects will taste like hazelnuts or peanuts, others will taste like chicken, fish or duck, even apple!  

If you decide to fry your insects, you only need to cook them for a few seconds. They are small and will burn easily.

Breads made from cricket flour
Breads made from cricket flour

How about tasting the insects in the countries you travel to?

For instance, here are some ideas for destinations:

  • In Thailand let’s try all kinds of multicolored insects, raw or cooked.
  • In China larvae and pupae are directly involved in the tea preparation process.
  • In Japan, insects are in some regions mixed with sake and the larvae of some wasps are used in desserts in cookies.
  • In Africa you can discover caterpillars and termites in Burkina Faso in shea for example or in South Africa cooked with a tropical nut sauce. And in Uganda more specifically, taste delicious grasshoppers and crickets with a crunchy texture.
  • In Mexico, try the ant eggs with a little typical sauce and a tortilla.
  • In Europe, insects are gradually growing popular as appetizer chips. The example in France with the company Micronutris which proposes mealworms and crickets.
  • In Reunion, try the “Reunion caviar” made from wasp larvae seasoned with tomato and turmeric.
Pizza topped with insects
Pizza topped with insects

You’ve guessed it, eating insects might become a big part of a solution for a sustainable food intake in the future and curb greenhouse gasses emissions (and thus fight global warming). There is still a long way to go to win the hearts and minds of many humans but slowly, the critters are crawling into our plates, and it might just be more delicious than you think. 

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