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Written by Joanna Hoang   
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Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Insects as Food

The Solution to World Hunger… Insects? After a marathon weekend watching the travel channel’s program, Bizarre Foods, where Andrew Zimmern travels the world to sample the cuisines from different countries and cultures, I found myself thinking that insects could be the solution to world hunger. Some of what Zimmern samples are pretty standard fare in the United States, but many of his samplings are of the insect variety, including scorpions, tarantulas, and dung beetles, which just happen to be a staple food in some cultures.

For example, insects are an important food source in Africa, with caterpillars serving as an important source of protein—caterpillars have a higher proportion of protein to fat than beef or fish! Caterpillars are also rich in potassium, calcium, magnesium, zinc, phosphorus, iron, and a multitude of other vitamins. Because of their nutritional value these caterpillars are often prepared as a pulp and given to children to counter malnutrition.

According to Zimmern, many types of insects have a nice nutty flavor, almost meat-like, and best of all they are packed full of protein! Think back to The Lion King—remember Simba running away and meeting Pumba and Timon? As a starving lion cub, Simba did not devour his new friends. Instead, Pumba and Timon introduced him to their grub which consisted of a variety of critters. At first Simba was too disgusted to even try, but once he had a taste he was hooked! Insects kept him sustained while he was away from his lion family.

Timon Insect Buffet - Insects as Food


So how is this relevant to us humans? Insects actually contain much more protein than our expensive juicy steaks! Not only that, they are also more sustainable and environmentally friendly to harvest. There are millions and millions of insects and critters in a small square footage area. You know what else? We already consume bugs in our everyday diets! It is unavoidable—insects are present in all of the processed foods we use from flour, chips, canned goods to your fruits and vegetables. No one is there to inspect and remove all the bugs from our plants before they are processed, packaged, etc. In fact, the FDA has guidelines for approval of a small percentage of insects found in foods sold to consumers.

Fried Tarantulas! According to an adventurous traveler, the fried tarantulas come out “looking very crispy and served with a lime pepper sauce… It tastes like chicken skin a little maybe crossed with prawn.” Sounds like a delicious, easy on the pocketbook, cruelty-free alternative to slaughterhouses, as well as a sustainable food option, since it takes infinitely less space and resources to grow and harvest these critters than it does to raise traditional livestock.

Fried Tarantulas -  Insects as Food


How do we get insects into our diets? First, we need to find the insects. You can order some from online retailers or buy them from your local pet or bait shops. Meal worms and crickets are aplenty! You will need to feed the critters fresh grain or vegetables since most insects you buy from these stores will have been raised on saw dust or newspaper, thus not so tasty… but you can change this without much effort. Here are some insect-based recipes:

Mealworm Chocolate Chip Cookies


This recipe is an excellent way to introduce people to insect eating. Even squeamish people will try mealworm cookies, since the cookies look like you traditional ones and it is difficult to actually taste the mealworms.

Ingredients:
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 cup oats
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips
  • 1/4 cup mealworm flour [see recipe below]
Directions:
  1. Beat the butter, preferably with a mixer, until it is nice and creamy.
  2. Mix the creamed butter with the rest of the ingredients.
  3. Drop the batter by the teaspoonful onto a greased cookie sheet.
  4. Bake for 10 minutes at 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
Insect Flour Directions:
  1. Clean off your insects with some water and then spread them out on a lightly greased cookie sheet.
  2. Dry insects for approximately 1-3 hours in your oven at 200˚F. When the insects are fully cooked they will be brittle and crush easily.
  3. Place your cooked insects into a blender or coffee grinder, and mix them until they look similar to wheat germ. You can then use this flour in almost any recipe—add it to salads, soups, breads, and other baked goods!
Banana Worm Bread

Ingredients:
  • 1/2 cup shortening
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 bananas, mashed
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup chopped nuts
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 cup dry-roasted army worms
Directions:
Mix all ingredients together in a bowl. Pour mixture into a greased load pan. Bake for about an hour at 350˚F.

For more insect recipes just search the internet, they are out there in abundance!!! A good place to start is manataka.org. Good luck!

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1http://www.travelchannel.com/TV_Shows/Bizarre_Foods
2http://www.fao.org/newsroom/en/news/2004/51409/index.html
3Id.
4Id.
5http://www.lionking.org/imgarchive/Act_2/TimonGrabsBugs2.jpg
6http://www.fda.gov/Food/GuidanceComplianceRegulatoryInformation/
GuidanceDocuments/Sanitation/ucm056174.htm

7http://www.travelpod.com/travel-blog-entries/minkyjane/1/1267990308/tpod.html
8http://images.travelpod.com/users/minkyjane/1.1267990308.fried-tarantula.jpg
9http://www.manataka.org/page160.html
10http://www.manataka.org/page160.html
11Id.
12http://www.manataka.org/page1083.html




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