Adventures in Entomophagy: Orthopteran Stir-fry

Entomophagy is a topic sure to either fascinate or horrify. In plain English, it translates to eating insects. Charley and I have contemplated venturing into this realm intentionally (the USDA allows quite a lot of bug parts in processed food) often over the last few months. We’ve been eating a semi-vegetarian diet for a while; supplemented with a chicken or other locally sourced meat once or twice a month, but recently we started to cut way down on the amount of processed carbohydrates we were eating and found that we needed a little more protein. Recognizing the outsized ecological footprint and carbon output of most meat, we were curious about the little animals all around us that our chickens find so delectable.

Fortunately, librarians tend to have curious, non-judgmental souls. Edible is an inspiring personal narrative as the author learns more about eating insects all over the world; The Eat-a-Bug Cookbook is the practical guide I was looking for to answer my most pressing questions (Do I need to gut a grasshopper? No. Which insects are poisonous? Generally insects that are colored red, orange, or yellow should be avoided).

Today was very warm, and we were feeling lethargic and having a hard time getting much real work done. I went out to read one of my new library books in the hammock. There were grasshoppers and crickets all over the place. Why wait to try this experiment?

Charley and I hand-caught about 20 grasshoppers and crickets in the space of five minutes just outside our front door. There were maybe four different species represented, but we didn’t look them up this time.

We placed our jars in the freezer—the recommended method of slaughtering a bug. (Much tidier and easier than butcher day for the chickens, I might add…)

A few hours later, we started feeling ready for dinner. I chopped everything else up—homegrown leeks, zucchini, yellow crookneck, broccoli, and garlic (plus carrots and ginger from the co-op).

…And got the protein out of the freezer.

Twenty or so grasshoppers don’t seem like so many when they’re frozen; that many seemed like plenty when they were trying to hop out of our jars!

I tossed them into the stir-fry around the same time as the broccoli, wanting to cook them through but not scorch them.

As they cook, grasshoppers turn red, like lobster.

And they taste a bit like shrimp.

It was overall a very pleasant, easy experience which we will repeat. We caught readily available protein without having to spend any money, time, or effort feeding an animal or protecting it from predators, killed it humanely and easily with limited guilt, and ate a delicious meal that included protein but was as simple as a vegetarian stir-fry to prepare. We didn’t have to buy expensive nuts or worry about sterilizing a bloody cutting board. Fantastic!

I’m looking forward to trying out a number of other recipes. Stay tuned!