Monday, 25 February 2008

Eating insects

fried grasshoppers chapulines

Photo by Flickr user The Daily Joe. Creative Commons licence.

Has anyone tried fried grasshoppers or chapulines? They are a speciality of Oaxaca in Mexico and one of 1400 types of insects in the world which are eaten by humans. The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) says the insect world offers great possibilities, both economically and nutritionally.

Nutritional potential

As a food source insects are highly nutritious, some having as much protein as raw meat. In the larval stage they also can have a high fat content with important minerals and vitamins. While some are eaten only to ward off starvation, others like the grasshoppers above are considered a delicacy.

Management and development

Although insects account for most of the diversity in natural forests, which is where most edible species are found, they are probably the least studied. While forest dwellers know an enormous amount about these insects, the forest managers know very little about their potential or how they could be harvested sustainably.

Commercial potential

Apart from their nutritional value there is the possibility for jobs and income for local people rearing and capturing these insects and preparing them for market. According to Patrick Durst, senior FAO forestry officer, there are opportunities to make edible insects more appealing and to expand markets to urban areas.

There has been a 3 day workshop in Thailand, run jointly by the FAO and Chiang Mai University to consider these possibilities. They hope to "raise awareness of the potential of edible forest insects as a food source, document the contribution of edible insects to rural livelihoods and assess linkages to sustainable forest management and conservation".

PS I didn't try the chapulines but my husband did. He said they were unremarkable, just crispy. Although I realise it's illogical when I'm happy to eat prawns or mussels, or even snails, it will take a little more marketing before I try grasshoppers myself.

9 comments:

  1. I know some find it odd, but I've tried fried grasshoppers and it was even in Norway. Like you said it was crispy and tasty.
    Great, readable and as always, an educative post.

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  2. *gags* I'm so glad I'm a vegetarian! I'd die first before I ate that.

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  3. I have never eaten an insect...nor had an opportunity to do so.

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  4. Caledonia

    "I'd die first". I don't think so, and indeed hope not. After all in the Andes, it is reputed that survivors of a plane crash ate human flesh just to survive.

    Survival is probably one of man's (and woman's) strongest instincts.

    I have to confess that I don't find the thought of eating insects makes my mouth water; I can only hope that if I do have to eat them, there is some alcohol around to numb the fears!

    Having said

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  5. Fried crickets is a local delicacy in Taiwan and I've tried cicada pupa in China. Chinese people find eating insects rather acceptable, but I wouldn't include it in my daily meal.

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  6. @RennyBA, you've eaten them in Norway? In a Mexican restaurant?

    @Caledonia, it takes all sorts :)

    @The bluest butterfly, I haven't eaten them and I missed my opportunity just from prejudice really. I would have thought the same about shell fish once.

    @Elaine, you're right of course, under some circumstances we would probably eat anything if it meant survival. I think the alcoholic accompaniment is a good idea!

    @la.traducteuse, there is really no logical reason for it not to be acceptable is there? I think it's because those of us who are squeamish about it have only seen insects in their wild state and the association with a cooked dish isn't there. Those of us who are carnivores don't associate the cooked dishes with the living animals but in the case of insects we have nothing else to associate them with. If you follow my jumbled logic :)

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  7. I'm with you on the thinking that shrimp are fine but grasshoppers are ewww. I would have to be really really hungry to eat a grasshopper. It would help to be drunk.

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  8. Hi sugarmag! I suppose the thing is we see grasshoppers as jumpy green things, but prawns/shrimps are ready prepared. I'm trying to talk myself round here :)

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  9. Noooo I couldn't eat insects of any variety! YUCK!!!

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