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.
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.
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.