Posted in Culinary, Food Security on Mar 10, 2019

Chocolate covered tarantulas

As a child, I remember being told that just because you could do something, doesn’t mean that you should do it – and sometimes dietary choices fall under this logic. A New Zealand newspaper reported this week about those ‘perennial favourites’: chocolate covered tarantulas. Perhaps not the best gift for the mother-in-law this Mothers’ Day.

My first thought is; what are they like? Are the innards just all squishy goo or are they ‘gutted’ first? Do the hairy legs tickle your throat as they go down? Again though, why would you?

I can’t help but wonder… are they free-range? According to the importers they are sourced from ‘sustainable, ethical and reputable farms throughout Asia’. To me, the thought of farming arachnids is the stuff of nightmares – what happens if the revolting revolt, if there is arachnid anarchy?

The hunt for other sources of protein

Yes, we need alternative proteins, but for this arachnophobic author, the only good spider is a dead one (and by that I don’t mean a dead one on a skewer, with my potatoes or served in some sort of stir-fry). The drive for protein from other sources has seen greater interest in what the bug world could offer (and this is not a new phenomenon) but, it is hard to see that covering a large, hairy spider in chocolate is anything more than a bit of a gimmick.

Eat more insects

The National Geographic published an article a few years back, based on the UN recommendation that we eat more insects, and which reviewed the eight most popular bugs to try. That’s eight out of over 1,900 edible insect species (some of which are already consumed regularly in parts of the world). From an environmental perspective, insects convert feed to protein far more efficiently than livestock. So, if you are interested in a spot of entomophagy (consuming insects as foods), the following lists a few to try.

First up are beetles – long-horned, june, dung (selling them would be a marketing challenge), and rhinoceros beetles. High in protein, one report suggests roasting them over coals and eating like popcorn. The larval and pupal stages of butterflies and moths are another popular choice; in fact, the ‘fat and fleshy’ agave worms are both popular as a food, and as the worm that you will find in the bottom of your bottle of mescal.

In addition to providing honey, bees are commonly consumed. Apparently, wasps can have a bit of a pine flavor, and bee brood (egg, larval or pupal forms of the insect) taste like almonds or peanuts. It could be that ants become the dieter’s choice – low in calories but high in protein, calcium, and iron. In fact, ants have more protein per 100gms than eggs. Although rounding up 100gms of ants could be a bit of a mission.

The most consumed insect is the grasshopper; as well as a good source of protein, it is reported that they have a ‘neutral flavor’ (which I interpret as ‘no’ flavor); and while locusts swarm and destroy crops, it seems only fair to turn them into food. Possibly the most surprising insect on the popular list was the stinkbug (smell aside). They add an ‘apple’ flavor to sauces and are reportedly high in iodine. Despite their culinary upside, the brown marmorated stinkbug remains potentially the most devastating insect to crops and horticulture. If the choice is between a bug that tastes like an apple and an actual apple, I think I’ll be opting for the one that is of plant origin.



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