Waiter, there’s a fly in my soup! And a cockroach on my pizza, a worm in my rice and ants in my cheese.
Cringe all you like, but flies, cockroaches, worms and ants are all part of the edible bug market infiltrating our cities.
We’re actually behind the times with about 80 per cent of the world’s population already happily crunching on insects such as crickets, bees, centipedes, and dragon flies. In fact, there are close to 2,000 edible insect species on earth and Skye Blackburn, owner of Sydney’s Edible Bug Shop, says there are plenty of reasons to include them in your diet.
“Edible insects are delicious, nutritious and sustainable,” she says.
“They are very versatile and can be used in a variety of dishes but as with any ingredient they need to be prepared correctly.
“Different types of insects taste completely different as well, so this adds to their appeal, especially among foodies.”
With a background in entomology (the study of insects) as well as food science, Skye was inspired to combine the two skills after coming across edible bugs on a holiday to Thailand.
At the Edible Bug Shop, she breeds insects specifically for human consumption. The extensive list of products available includes chilli and garlic crickets, chocolate-coated mealworms, roasted cockroaches and dehydrated ants.
Skye says one of her favourite products is cricket powder, thanks to its health benefits and versatility.
“Most insects are high in protein, micronutrients and essential amino acids, so they are a fantastic superfood,” says Skye.
“I like to add a scoop of cricket powder to my breakfast smoothie to get an extra superfood hit. You can use cricket powder in any way you would any other protein powder. You can be a bit more creative with it though. I have made stir fries, burgers, granola and even cookies.”
Skye isn’t the only one to advocate the creepy-crawly ingredients.
Iconic Sydney chef and restaurateur Kylie Kwong has embraced the trend with baby crickets, roasted wood cockroaches, dehydrated earthworms, roast mealworms and live green tree ants all gracing the Billy Kwong menu.
Meanwhile, at Bondi’s El Topo, forget the fries and grab yourself a bowl of roasted crickets with chilli, garlic and lime dressing.
Then there’s Ecobars. These raw energy bars are made with cricket powder, as well as ingredients such as mango, orange, cacao, spirulina, chia and raw nuts, and are the first of their kind to hit Australian shores.
Camilla Ryals, co-founder of Ecobars, says, “Crickets emit a slice of the greenhouse gases than cattle, including one tenth the amount of methane, requiring substantially less land and less water. Cricket farming is big business. It’s sustainable and environmentally bonded, necessary to feed a growing population.”
Plus they taste like almonds.
The health benefits of eating insects are significant. For example, crickets contain more than twice the amount of protein than cattle per gram, are packed with magnesium and loaded with three times the amount of iron. Additionally, because insects are eaten whole, the body receives greater amounts of vitamin B12, zinc and calcium.
Eating insects also presents a far better equation for the environment.
Says Skye, “By replacing one meat-based meal every week with edible insects, you can save over 100,000 litres of water every year. The insects themselves don’t take a lot of space to breed and they convert most of what they eat into body mass.”
Insects also produce far less greenhouse gas (most bugs don’t produce methane as waste at all), require far less food and are a far more desirable option from an animal welfare point of view.
It’s a strong argument. But is it enough to overcome the squirm-factor? There’s only one way to find out.
To El Topo we go!