By: Brendan Atkins, Category: Museullaneous, Date: 21 Jul 2014
Feeling peckish? Here's the solution.
It’s the monthly morning tea for staff on the sunny top floor of the Australian Museum Research Institute building, and the Entomology Department has done a fine job: plates of biscuits and cakes, bowls of strawberries and nuts, and . . . mealworms.
Not live ones, but fried, pre-packed larvae of the mealworm beetle, Tenebrio molitor. They could be just another brown, crispy cocktail snack (Larvets™, available in BBQ, cheddar or spicy Mexican), but I have to overcome a lifetime of cultural conditioning just to nibble one. At least they weren’t still wriggling.
Yet entomophagy (the consumption of insects for food) is not unusual in the world: think witchetty grubs and bogong moths in Australia, fried crickets in Thailand, grasshoppers (chapulines) in Mexico and chocolate-coated ants in Japan.
Food scientists predict we’ll have to embrace insect-eating to feed the millions of new mouths added to the human population each year. Insects certainly make an ideal mini-livestock: fast-growing, cheap to feed and house, and environmentally friendly.
Dried mealworms seem nutritious enough: around 50% protein and 28% fat (though you can swap these proportions in the fried products).
Is eating insects really so different to eating other types of invertebrates – prawns, mussels or calamari? My mind says no, but my heart says yes; cultural waters run deep, and insects have yet to find a place on the average Western table.
But if we do all have to start eating insects for the good of the planet, I’d go the cheddar flavour; the BBQ was a bit bland. Or cut out the middle guy and go vegetarian.
How about you – what insects would you recommend?