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I grew up in a part of the United States that occasionally had severe infestations of locusts, a kind of insect also known as the short-horned grasshopper. Vast swarms of bugs, that nowadays would show up on radar (weather radar had not been introduced when I was a kid), stripped plants bare, mated, and laid their eggs in the ground for the next invasion.
During one of the swarms of grasshoppers that hit our farm, when I was about six years old, my aunt, who had been a teenager during first few years of the Great Depression when food was scarce, commented that fried grasshopper legs were crunchy and delicious. On her advice I persuaded a grasshopper to donate to the experiment and tried them. I apologized to the grasshopper, which hopped away on five legs, and never ate bugs again until I was an adult.
Here are five reasons to eat bugs:
- Insects are sustainable food source. They are coldblooded, so they don't spend calories keeping themselves warm. The food they eat becomes food for higher-level predators. Moreover, insects eat many kinds of agricultural waste that otherwise could not be consumed.
- Insects are easy to grow. In fact, it's hard to keep them from growing. They don't need special cages. They are quiet, or, in some instances, they like to sing. They are cheap to feed. They are efficient producers of edible protein. And they are odor-free. Unlike, say, a cow, which takes several years to become edible beef, insects mature in days or weeks, and reproduce rapidly. It is unlikely you will run out of insects.
- Insects are high in protein. Many of the countries where insects are eaten have difficulties growing poultry, swine, cattle, goats, or sheep. Insects provide protein to balance a high-protein diet. They also are high in fat--which can be critically deficient in many diets, as hard as it may be to believe in the diet-crazed developed world.
- Insects are versatile. Some species, such as crickets, can be dried and made into "bug bars," as well as cookies, cakes, breads, crackers, biscuits, and pasta. Food scientists have mastered techniques that extract protein from bugs while removing any "buggy" taste, to be added to high-carbohydrate flour for added nutrition.
- As hard as it may be to believe, some (although certainly not all) bugs are tasty. Mealworms and grubs fried in butter take on the flavor and texture of bacon bits. Cricket flour has a nutty flavor that enables it to function as a "gateway bug," especially when it is used to make chocolate chip cookies.
I'm willing to give them another try. Maybe you would, too. Let's take a look at different kinds of insects and how they would show up on your dinner plate.