Know your grubs!
When it comes to choosing our snacks we are normally quite adventurous. In a cosmopolitan city like London, it is easy to come across an odd friend or two who bring back chilli buffalo worms from their visit to Vietnam. Being curious, we give it a go, but never really think of eating them again. But, what if we could include insects in our daily diet? What benefits could it bring?
During the past decades, concerns about food waste and the strive for ethical crops has made the most environmentally conscious of us turn to alternatives such as reducing meat consumption or veganism. However, if not done properly this might bring many detrimental effects on our body and even lead to malnutrition in some cases.
Entomophagy, or the human use of insects as food, seems to be a very promising solution to all of our sustainable-eating issues.
As money matters, let’s start with the benefits for our local and global economies. Insect farming is more cost-effective than conventional farming because it requires less energy, less space and less time. In comparison to beef, where only 40% of the animal is edible, crickets, for example, are 80% edible, significantly increasing the efficiency in production and use of resources.
Eating insects will not only boost our economy but could also help protect our crops against plagues and epidemics. Producing far less greenhouse gases, insect farming could also help reduce meat’s massive ecological footprint, which shovels down 70% of agricultural ground.
Entomophagy is not only good for the environment and our economy, but also good for our bodies. Per gram, insects have as much or even more protein than the majority of fish and meat. They also include many essential vitamins such as Calcium and B12 - both particularly high in crickets! And in case you are wondering, because they are taxonomically different from humans, insects are way less likely to transmit diseases to their human companions than conventional meats!
If eating grubs is nutritious and environmentally sustainable, why are we not eating more of them?
One of the biggest challenges in entomophagy is obtaining public interest. For us meat-eating westerners, anything with many legs, that grows in dirt or could be poisonous, seem like an unviable alternative.
Interestingly, this is not the case everywhere as many countries have a long tradition of eating insects. About 2 million people around the world eat bugs. In Mexico, for example, it’s common to find maguey worms at the bottom of Mescal bottles as a seal of authenticity and in Vietnam coconut worms are eaten alive to preserve their juiciness!
Designing more appealing formats such as protein bars could perhaps be the solution to make entomophagy a reality. Indroneel Chaterjee, a scientist at Brooks University who is challenging the stereotypes of insect eating told me that “people are mainly interested in the novelty, they are looking for the experience and not the benefits”. This means that when it comes to eating insects they would rather venture and eat a live buffalo worm than a sticky protein bar. This is probably the reason why, even though we do try them out, we find it harder to incorporate them as an alternative protein in our diet.
As I discovered recently, including insects in our daily meals is not really hard. Ground some into flour and use for your batters or meatballs or just add them to your curry or salad. To the dismay of my flatmates and amusement of my twitter followers, I ordered some grasshoppers from EatGrub for a stir fry. I must admit I wasn’t that excited when I received my bag of grubs, wings and legs included. It took me a couple of days to motivate myself to try them out. The end result was quite good, as the insects added a crunchy feeling and umami taste to my stir fry giving it an interesting twist.
Eating insects is not for everyone of course, and if you are a conservative eater you might find it hard to sprinkle crickets on your morning smoothie. However, if you are like me and crave adventures and challenges, grab some grubs and enjoy!
If you want to try for yourself, I have included the recipe below.
9g of grasshoppers
Tender stem broccoli
2 garlic cloves
1 teaspoon of sesame oil
1 teaspoon of coconut oil
Fish sauce to taste
1. Prepare the grasshoppers on a baking tray after taking the legs and wings off
2. Preheat the oven at 180 degrees and roast the grasshoppers until they are golden brown
3. Add one teaspoon of coconut oil to a frying pan and fry thegarlic, ginger, onion and chilli
4. Rinse the broccoli, asparagus and mangetout and add to the pan for a quick stir fry (4-6 minutes)
5. Finish up with some sesame oil and fish sauce to taste
6. Add to a bowl and sprinkle the grasshoppers on top
7. Garnish with coriander and fresh chilli and enjoy!