The concept of Edible Insects is relatively new in Canada and North America in general. To a Westerner, the idea of eating “bugs” sounds strange and, let’s be honest, “creepy”, but there are several advantages in doing it. Most important, despite being considered a novelty, the idea of using insects as a source of protein is been around for a long time.
History of Edible Insects
How long you may ask? Well, since long before humans were around…
Entomophagy (or eating insects) is practiced and has been practiced by primates throughout prehistoric periods of times and, to some degree, performed to this day by many species.
There are genetic evidences that humans as well are adapted to eat insects. Both humans and primates share a gene that produce a digestive enzyme that breaks down the chitin of the exoskeleton (the outer, hard part of an insect body). This shows how important insects were as a food source during the evolution of humans!
There are also archeological and historical evidences that show how important edible insects have been throughout human history.
Inside Lakeside cave near the Great Salt Lake in Utah called, archeologists found large amounts of grasshopper parts interspersed in the sediments. The theory? Early human populations in the region used the grasshoppers found on the shores of the lake as food source and used the cave as a pantry! The Great Salt Lake is known for an interesting phenomenon: when a swarm of grasshoppers flies over the lake, some of them inevitably fall in the water and are then washed ashore; the salt in the water first and the Sun later dries them out completely, turning them in an high protein “ready-to-pick-up” snack.
Pliny, a Roman scholar and philosopher from the first Century and author of Historia Naturalis, wrote that Roman aristocrats loved to eat beetle larvae reared on flour and wine. The Greek philosopher Aristoteles in the fourth Century described the best moment of the year to harvest Cicadas and the optimal method to cook them.
Even religious texts like the Bible (Leviticus 11:22) talk about insects, describing which ones are allowed as food (crickets and grasshoppers) and which ones are not.
In 1885 Vincent M. Holt published a small pamphlet called “Why not Eat Insects?” in which he tried to convince his fellow Victorians to include insects in their diet. Interesting, he found them less repulsing then a food that is now considered a delicacy: lobsters! He argued that lobsters (bottom feeders, often fished in the past using morsels of rotting meat) are less clean animals and, therefore, less appetizing. Unfortunately, his contemporaries were not ready to accept the change…
Continuing with interesting books, in 1975 Ronald Taylor (PhD) and Barbara Carter (MSc) published “Entertaining with Insects”. No, it’s not a book about flea’s circuses or framing butterflies, it’s about (you guessed it) cooking with insects! Dozens of recipes and tricks about incorporating insects in everyday meals.
What about today? Are there other signs of edible insects becoming a mainstream food? Well, have you ever heard of Noma? It’s ranked as one of the best restaurants in the world. Among the different foods served there, you can find ants pesto and other dishes made with edible insects. So, if an high end restaurant can do it, so can you!
Protein from crickets
Crickets are a great source of protein and other nutrients. Crickets’ (and insects in general) bodies are composed principally of a polysaccharide called chitin, similar to the outer shell of crustaceans, such as shrimps and lobsters. In a way, crickets are like land shrimps!
In terms of nutrients, they are 66% of protein in weight, rich in iron, potassium, calcium and vitamin B12. One tablespoon of cricket flour (about 10g) provides 100% of the B12 you will need in a day. Crickets have a complete aminoacidic profile, including all the 9 essential amino acids, making them a very healthy protein!
As an additional bonus, crickets are low in cholesterol and other unhealthy fatty acids (which means you can eat more protein without the guilt!). Also, farming insects does not require hormones, steroids or antibiotics, making them a healthy choice for people with specific allergies or that want to avoid food contaminations.
Edible Insects in the Modern Era
And what about today? Are edible insects commonly consumed by people? Well, the answer is yes! The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimates that about 2 billion people include insects as a staple source of protein in their diet. There are over 2000 known species of insects considered edible right now. Among them ants, silkworms, grasshoppers and, of course, crickets!
The main advantages of crickets? Their low environmental impact, high nutrient content and great taste!
Looking at the Future of the Planet
One of the biggest challenges that we, as a society, will have to face in the next decades is how to feed a growing world without depleting the planet of all its natural resources.
The FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations) estimates that by 2050 we will need to dramatically increase the world’s food production to feed an estimate 9+ billion people. This would mean, if we want to feed everyone with a “westerner style diet”, an increase by 75% in meat production in three decades. Considering that, currently, animal husbandry occupies about 45% of the world’s surface, and contributes to about 18% of the green house gases (GHGs) emission, it’s easy to understand that and increase in production would be disastrous for the environment.
This is where edible insects show their best side. This is where edible insects come to save the day! With their low environmental impact and high nutrient content, they are the perfect addition to everyone’s diet that can help save the planet!
Insects are also cool blooded animals, which means that they are very efficient and do not emit too much GHGs. Another reason why edible insects are environmentally friendly.
On top of all these advantages, insects farming is an indoor business (no crazy people going around the countryside with nets catching bugs!), which means less land used, and a crop that can be harvested year around!
What to expect when eating crickets…
One of the most common questions we get is: “what crickets taste like?”
It’s a fair question, because most people do not have a frame of reference for this ingredient. The amazing thing is, crickets taste can change depending on which recipe they are added. For example, in our Bugscotti they enhance the chocolate taste, while in our soups (COMING SOON) they taste like celery. It is a very versatile ingredient!
In addition to bringing you all the health and environmental advantages of edible insects, we have formulated our recipes to use wholesome, all-natural ingredients! No artificial flavors, no preservative and all the goodness of the Italian culinary tradition!