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

FILE – Perry Bellegarde, National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations, takes part in an event on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Tuesday, July 7, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Indigenous Peoples Day must be a ‘call to action’, says Assembly of First Nations chief

Discovery of children at Kamloops residential school site must lead to change, Perry Bellegarde says

It's believed the Sacred Hearts church on PIB land burned Sunday night. (Aileen Mascasaet Maningas)
Church burns on Penticton Indian Band land

The fire started around 1:30 a.m. Monday morning

The Pierre family, an Indigenous family, once lived in what is now downtown Summerland. Today, Pierre Drive is named in honour of the family. (Photo courtesy of the Summerland Museum)
Pierre family played role in Summerland’s history

Downtown Summerland was once Penticton Indian Reserve #3

This parking on the east side of Martin Street will be removed permanently Monday morning (June 21, 2021) to put in the Lake to Lake bike lane. (City of Penticton)
Parking removed permanently to make way for bike lane in downtown Penticton

Work begins Monday morning to replace parking spots with bike lane on Martin Street

Jaimee Peters photo of a Willow Midwives helping with a birth. Willow closed its doors March 31 because of a shortage of midwives. (Contributed)
South Okanagan’s only midwifery to re-open this summer

Willow Community Midwives was forced to close because of a shortage of midwives

Marco Mendicino, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship during a press conference in Ottawa on Thursday, May 13, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Canada to welcome 45,000 refugees this year, says immigration minister

Canada plans to increase persons admitted from 23,500 to 45,000 and expedite permanent residency applications

Tokyo 2020 President Seiko Hashimoto and IOC President Thomas Bach, on a screen, speak during a five=party online meeting at Harumi Island Triton Square Tower Y in Tokyo Monday, June 21, 2021. The Tokyo Olympics will allow some local fans to attend when the games open in just over a month, Tokyo organizing committee officials and the IOC said on Monday. (Rodrigo Reyes Marin/Pool Photo via AP)
Tokyo Olympics to allow Japanese fans only, with strict limits

Organizers set a limit of 50% capacity — up to a maximum of 10,000 fans

The border crossing into the United States is seen during the COVID-19 pandemic in Lacolle, Que. on February 12, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
Border quarantine to soon lift for fully vaccinated Canadians

Eligible travellers must still take multiple COVID-19 tests

A portion of the George Road wildfire burns near Lytton, B.C. in this Friday, June 18, 2021 handout photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, BC Wildfire Service *MANDATORY CREDIT*
Blaze near Lytton spread across steep terrain, says BC Wildfire Service

Fire began Wednesday and is suspected to be human-caused, but remains under investigation

Blair Lebsack, owner of RGE RD restaurant, poses for a portrait in the dining room, in Edmonton, Friday, June 18, 2021. Canadian restaurants are having to find ways to deal with the rising cost of food. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Canadian restaurateurs grapple with rising food costs, menu prices expected to rise

Restaurants are a low margin industry, so there’s not a lot of room to work in additional costs

RCMP crest. (Black Press Media files)
Fort St. John man arrested after allegedly inviting sexual touching from children

Two children reported the incident to a trusted adult right away

Barbara Violo, pharmacist and owner of The Junction Chemist Pharmacy, draws up a dose behind vials of both Pfizer-BioNTech and Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines on the counter, in Toronto, Friday, June 18, 2021. An independent vaccine tracker website founded by a University of Saskatchewan student says just over 20 per cent of eligible Canadians — those 12 years old and above — are now fully vaccinated. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
At least 20% of eligible Canadians fully vaccinated, 75% with one dose: data

Earlier projections for reopening at this milestone didn’t include Delta variant

Emily Steele holds up a collage of her son, 16-year-old Elijah-Iain Beauregard who was stabbed and killed in June 2019, outside of Kelowna Law Courts on June 18. (Aaron Hemens/Capital News)
Kelowna woman who fatally stabbed Eli Beauregard facing up to 1.5 years of jail time

Her jail sentence would be followed by an additional one to 1.5 years of supervision

Most Read