Future of Nutrition: Which Insects Are Edible?

edible-insects-chapulines

If the thought of insects makes you crawl read on to learn how they might soon be appearing in a supermarket near you.
The human population is increasing on a daily basis and it doesn’t look like it’s ever going to slow down. Before very long the problem of feeding all those hungry mouths will become a burden that calls for new ways to provide our daily nutritional requirements. There is a growing band of experts that is looking to the insect world for an answer to our prayers.

At McGill University, Montreal, a group of students received the 2013 Hult Prize when they managed to produce a flour from insects, which was rich in protein. They also received $1 million dollars seed money to put into production their so called ‘Power Flour’. They’ve announced that initial production will involve crickets.

A recent report from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations gives details of how a diet that is supplemented with insects has environmental and health benefits. Let’s take a look at some of the candidates. Which insects are edible?

Mopane Caterpillars

A plate of cooked mopane caterpillars

Common throughout Southern Africa this moth larvae is at the core of a multi-million dollar industry. The best way to cook them is to boil them in salted water, then leave to dry in the sun. When times are lean the nutritional value of this little bug far outweighs any of its bug relatives. 31mg of iron per 100g is better than beef and the minerals it contains include potassium, sodium and calcium.

Chapulines

Cooked chapulines

This member of the grasshopper family is widely consumed all over southern Mexico. Roasted and flavoured with spices and herbs it’s a protein rich supplement that many enjoy.

Witchetty Grub

A cooked grub on a plate

This grub is a staple part of aboriginal diets and can be eaten raw or lightly cooked on hot coals. They say that raw ones taste like almonds and when cooked on a fire they have a skin that’s similar to the texture and taste of chicken. But we’re not prepared to confirm this statement at the moment. This moth larvae is an excellent source of oelic acid and omega-9 unsaturated fat. Once you’ve dug it out of the ground that is.

Termites

If you’ve got a problem with termites why not try and eat them? In South America and Africa they’re dried in the sun or fried, smoked or steamed in banana leaves. Surprisingly rich in iron, calcium and fatty acids they’re also 38% protein.

Red Palm Weevil

An African tribal delicacy that is harvested from the trunks of palm trees. Their bodies are full of fat so they’re easily pan-fried but they can also be eaten straight off the tree. Reports show they are an excellent source of healthy nutrients, amino acids and those ‘good for you’ fats.

Stink Bugs

Their name doesn’t make the taste buds tingle but that doesn’t put people off in Asia, South America and Africa who eat them after removing the head. Once this smelly part has been removed they’re roasted or soaked and then dried in the sun. An added bonus comes from using the soaking water as a pesticide to keep termites away.

Meal Worms

mealworm meal

This is the only insect we’ve taken to eating in the Western world. Guess times haven’t got that bad just yet. In the Netherlands they are farmed for human consumption. Nutritionally they rank right up there, with high levels of copper, sodium, potassium, iron, zinc and selenium and are comparable with beef in the protein stakes.

Images by: 1. William Neuheisel, 2. Greg Willis, 3. César Rincón, 4. Jessica Rabbit, 5. Wikipedia

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