The thought of eating worms and insect larvae is rather shocking for some. However, these creatures are a staple in diets around the world. Many species of butterflies and moths in their larval stage and as adults are treasured for their taste. Even better, they’re valued for their protein content, which is higher – pound for pound – than any animal product.
We unknowingly consume small insect and animal parts in common foods, such as flour and even jelly. Today, more people are beginning to realize the nutritional benefits of intentionally consuming bugs, insects, and worms – a practice known as entomophagy. Recipes abound, from cookies to breads that incorporate bits and pieces or dried parts ground to make flour. While that may still sound disgusting, think about these critters’ aquatic equivalents, such as fish eggs and snails. Those are high-end delicacies found on many an upscale menu.
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Mealworms are recommended for those just beginning to experiment. They’re inexpensive and easy to find at pet or bait shops or through specialty sellers. Mealworms are also easy to raise for those who consume worms on a regular basis.
Treats from around the world include a wide variety of unusual edible worms, larvae, and caterpillars.
In Mexico, street vendors sell bags of worms and are ready to fry them up on the spot. They also include them in tacos as a specialty. The maguey plant is home to red worms (chinicuiles) and white worms (meocuiles), which are actually moth and butterfly larvae, respectively. For those looking for a live alternative, the Devil’s horse, known as “caballito del diablo” is said to be heavenly. These are dragonfly larvae and are also delicious when they’re toasted or fried.
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In Africa, the mopane worm makes a frequent appearance on the table. These are actually caterpillars that feed on the leaves of the mopane tree. Instructions to make them better tasting include squeezing the guts out, giving them a saltwater boil, then setting them out to dry.
The common earthworm, most notably the red wiggler, also has many of the same protein-rich benefits along with an abundance of omega 3 oil. They’re better chopped into pieces before frying, however, to remove any grainy bits from their digestive systems.
Beetle larvae from any species are on the menus in many countries, including South America. Longhorn and scarab beetles are particular varieties that get the taste buds going during the larval stage.
In Japan and among some Pacific islands, fly larvae is a specialty, sometimes blended with soy and lemon or lime juice.
You shouldn’t just go out in the neighborhood and start looking for your next snack, however, Many of these creatures are exposed to pesticides, which can have adverse reactions. Also, caterpillars that are colorful tend to have unpleasant side effects.
When preparing store-purchased worms, give them a new home in a bowl filled with corn meal. Leave them for about twenty-four hours while they feed. This will purge any unwanted foods they’ve previously consumed, while developing those buttery, bacony, meaty, woodsy flavors that make them so good. You can also let them go hungry for a day to achieve the same results.
Cooking in some form is always best to eliminate any risks of parasites. Keep them alive until you’re ready to bake or pop them into hot oil. Worm bodies tend to decompose quickly once they’re no longer living. Happy eating!