Could eating insects be the secret to feeding a growing population?

19 June, 2020

Why eating insects is the next big thing

Once the domain of only adventurous tourists in southeast Asia, now eating insects is being touted as a mainstream food trend in Australia. Most of us are still a little nervous but around 2 billion people worldwide eat insects as part of their regular diet. Of the 925,000 species of insects that inhabit the earth, 1900 are edible. With climate change affecting our natural resources, scientists are looking for alternative and sustainable food sources and insects have been identified as an excellent source of protein and iron for humans that are easy to farm without the use of excess energy or farming machinery.

The dos and don’ts of eating insects

Aboriginal Australians have been dining on insects for thousands of years. Most well-known is the nutty flavoured witchetty grub which is packed full of calcium, thiamine and folate and can be eaten raw or roasted. Tar vine caterpillars, green ants, honey ants and native bees are also consumed as food (as well as for their medicinal properties).

In Ghana, they eat mealworms in salad. In Brazil, queen ants are a delicacy. In China, scorpions are roasted and, in Australia, cricket powder is sold as a protein booster. In Japan, silkworms are skewered and chargrilled, in Kenya, termites are crushed and fed to babies. Dragonflies, termites, earwigs and stink bugs can also be consumed safely. Butterflies, beetles, bees and bugs can all feature on the menu. In parts of Mexico, ant larvae are considered a delicacy, along with ahuatle, water bug eggs that are like caviar. And, don’t forget, you can swallow the worm in your tequila!

But, be careful. If you have any allergies be wary when eating insects. Similar to shellfish, insects are arthropods, with their skeletons on the outsides of their bodies, and they could trigger a reaction. Take the usual precautions.

How to use insects in your cooking

Feeling like you want to get adventurous at home?

Pop insects in your smoothies for a protein burst, or sprinkle a handful of stir fried ants onto a salad, mix locusts with honey and soy sauce and bake until crispy or mix with nuts and maple syrup to make a breakfast granola. For a whole range of interesting international recipes, have a look at this website dedicated to insect based recipes or this one which uses cricket flour to make brownies. For another sweet treat, you can have salted chocolate and pistachio grasshoppers or make an Asian inspired dukka for your fruit with ground crickets and grasshoppers mixed with spices.

Where to buy insects if you’re feeling adventurous?

Insect products are not yet easy to find in Australia. Try Horn of Plenty, the local health shop, or ask at Asian City. They may have a supplier or an interesting alternative for you to try. Or you can buy edible insects online from a few Australian-based insect specialists.