University of Maryland entomologist Paula Shrewsbury, reaches for a cookie topped with a cicada nymph, Monday, May 17, 2021, in Columbia, Md. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

University of Maryland entomologist Paula Shrewsbury, reaches for a cookie topped with a cicada nymph, Monday, May 17, 2021, in Columbia, Md. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

Freaked by cicada swarms? You could just stick a fork in ‘em

Full of protein, gluten-free, low-fat and low-carb, cicadas are eaten by humans in many countries.

Cicadas are poised to infest whole swaths of American backyards this summer. Maybe it’s time they invaded your kitchen.

Swarms of the red-eyed bugs, who are reemerging after 17 years below ground, offer a chance for home cooks to turn the tables and make them into snacks.

Full of protein, gluten-free, low-fat and low-carb, cicadas were used as a food source by Native Americans and are still eaten by humans in many countries.

“We really have to get over our dislike of insects, which is really strong and deep-seated in most people in our culture,” said David George Gordon, author of “Eat-a-Bug Cookbook” and known as the Bug Chef.

“You could make stir fry. You can mix them into dough to make bread — make banana bread, let’s say. You can batter them and deep fry them, which I think would be my favorite way,” he said.

This year’s group is called Brood X, and they can be seen in 15 Eastern states from Indiana to Georgia to New York. Their cacophonous mating song can drown out the noise of passing jets.

When the soil warms up enough, cicadas emerge from the ground, where they’ve been sucking moisture from tree roots for the past 13 or 17 years, depending on species. They shed their exoskeletons, attach themselves to branches, mate and lay eggs before dying off in about six weeks.

When eating adult cicadas, it’s advised to pull the wings and legs off to reduce the crunchiness. But Gordon advises home cooks to gather the cicadas when they’re nymphs, before their body armor hardens and while they are still soft and chewy, like soft shell crab.

He puts them in the freezer, a humane way to kill them. Once defrosted, cicadas can become a pizza topping like sundried tomatoes, or replace shrimp in any recipe. Others have followed his lead, including a University of Maryland cookbook dedicated to the cicada.

“People can’t really deal with the idea of looking at a bug and eating it. So that’s why I like tempura batter or something that just conceals the features of the nymph,” Gordon said. “Plus, I’ll eat anything that’s deep fried. I have a recipe in my book for a deep-fried tarantula spider and they’re really good.”

Gordon’s “Eat-a-Bug Cookbook” came out in 1998 and was greeted by hostility and jokes from late-night TV hosts. “But of course, over the last 20 years, this is moving in the direction of being normalized,” he said.

Gordon pointed to the rise of foodie culture and thrill-seeking eaters like chef Andrew Zimmern, but especially to a 2013 report from the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization as a turning point in interest in edible insects. The report estimated that insect-eating is practiced regularly by at least 2 billion people around the world, and that dozens of species have been documented as edible, including cicadas.

It also declared that edible insects are rich in protein and good fats, high in calcium, iron and zinc, emit fewer greenhouse gases than most livestock, and take very little farming space or water.

“Now people were taking what I had been saying all along more seriously,” Gordon said. In America, “We’re kind of the weirdos: 80% of the world’s cultures eat insects, but we’re in that 20% that thinks it’s an abomination.”

The number of mass-produced foods containing insects — from protein bars to chips and pasta sauce — has been rising. In parts of Asia, some insects are sold in bags like salted peanuts or in tubes like stacked potato chips. A German company makes burgers out of mealworms.

“They’re a much healthier option for the planet,” said Dr. Jenna Jadin, an evolutionary biologist and ecologist who has worked as a climate change adviser for UN agencies like the Food and Agriculture Organization. “Especially in light of the fact that we will shortly have to feed 9 billion people.”

Jadin notes with a laugh that once the mighty, high-cost lobster was deemed so repulsive in the West that it was fed to prisoners. “Perceptions change,” she said.

She notes that the Food and Agriculture Organization estimates about 18% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions are due to animal agriculture.

Adventurous eaters might start with insects at the Newport Jerky Company, which has stores in Massachusetts and Rhode Island and a vibrant online presence. Its insect section includes a bag of grasshoppers for $9.99 or chocolate-covered crickets for $6.99.

Co-owner Derek Medico said he sells one item — a $9.99 mixed bag of dehydrated grasshoppers, mole crickets, silkworms, crickets and sago worms — thousands of times a year. “I think a lot of it just the novelty,” he said.

And he doesn’t expect to see consistent demand for insects anytime soon.

“In other countries and other cultures, that’s much more accepted and much more normal,” he said. “But here, I just think it’s just going to take a while.”

—Mark Kennedy, The Associated Press

RELATED: You want me to eat what? A look at some of B.C.’s most exotic seafoods

cookingNature

Just Posted

Fruit farmers in the Okanagan and Creston valleys are in desperate need of cherry harvesters amid COVID-19 work shortages. (Photo: Unsplash/Abigail Miller)
‘Desperate’ need for workers at Okanagan cherry farms

Fruit farmers are worried they’ll have to abandon crops due to COVID-19 work shortages

A tent housing a mobile vaccination clinic. (Interior Health/Contributed)
Over 5K jabbed at Interior Health mobile COVID-19 vaccine clinics

The clinics have made stops in more than 40 communities since launching last week

Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry talks about B.C.’s plan to restart the province during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria, Tuesday, May 25, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Interior Health COVID-19 cases falling slower than the rest of B.C.

More than a third of provincial cases announced Thursday came from the Interior

The Greater Vernon Chamber of Commerce will host the Valley Wide Business Expo May 4 at Predator Ridge Resort. (photo submitted)
Golf raffle helps Okanagan families score homes

Habitat for Humanity Okanagan swinging into action this summer with a new raffle

The weekly COVID-19 map for June 6 to 12. (BC CDC)
South Okanagan sees only 5 new cases in last week

The Similkameen Valley went a second week without any new cases

A small pod of Pacific white-sided dolphins pass by close to shore in Campbell River June 16, 2021. Still capture from video courtesy of Kimberly Hart
VIDEO: Dolphin sunset captured from Vancouver Island shore

Spectacular setting for view of travelling pod of Pacific white-sided dolphins

Bruce Springsteen performs at the 13th annual Stand Up For Heroes benefit concert in support of the Bob Woodruff Foundation in New York on Nov. 4, 2019. (Greg Allen/Invision/AP)
Canadians who got AstraZeneca shot can now see ‘Springsteen on Broadway’

B.C. mayor David Screech who received his second AstraZeneca dose last week can now attend the show

New research suggests wolves can be steered away from the endangered caribou herds they prey on by making the man-made trails they use to hunt harder to move along. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Culling cutlines, not B.C. wolves, key to preserving caribou herds: researcher

The government has turned to killing hundreds of wolves in an effort to keep caribou around

Gary Abbott (left) and Louis De Jaeger were two of the organizers for the 2014 Spirit of the People Powwow in Chilliwack. Monday, June 21, 2021 is Indigenous Peoples Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of June 20 to 26

Indigenous Peoples Day, Take Your Dog to Work Day, Onion Rings Day all coming up this week

Gwen Spencer Hethey with her uncle and mentor Major Frederick Richardson. (Courtesy of Greater Victoria Sports Hall of Fame)
‘She was a killer’: The B.C. woman who pioneered female sharpshooting

Gwen Spencer Hethey made military men ‘look like turkeys’ says her son

Rita Coolidge played the main stage at Vancouver Island Musicfest in 2017. (Black Press file photo)
This year’s Vancouver Island MusicFest to virtually showcase beauty of Comox Valley

Returning July 9 through 11 with more than 25 hours of music performances

British Columbia’s premier says he’s received a second dose of the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine. (Twitter/John Horgan)
B.C. premier gets 2nd dose of AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine

John Horgan shared a photo of himself on social media Friday afternoon holding a completed vaccination card

A lotto Max ticket is shown in Toronto on Monday Feb. 26, 2018.THE CANADIAN PRESS
No winning ticket sold for Friday’s $70 million Lotto Max jackpot

The huge jackpot has remained unclaimed for several weeks now

Most Read