15 Insects You Won't Believe Are Edible
What tastes like peanut butter? Or soft-shell crab? Or cinnamon? Why, grubs, scorpions, and stinkbugs, of course. Find out why insects are just another food group in most parts of the world.
Where It's Eaten: Japan, China, all over Asia, in many parts of the U.S.
How: Periodical cicadas spend most of their lives—up to 17 years—living underground and sucking sap from tree roots. But when they emerge to reproduce and die, plenty of folks (including a great many throughout parts of the U.S.) are waiting to catch them before their skins harden, so they can boil or fry them and eat them—kind of as we would with shrimp—as an integrated part of a meal. The singing critters are low in fat and contain 30 to 40 percent protein. Annual cicadas, meanwhile, live anywhere from two to seven years and are caught with much more ease and eaten in much the same way—boiled, fried, or sautéed.
Taste: Asparagus or clammy potato.
Where It's Eaten: Indonesia.
How: Boiled or fried as a special treat, these mosquito-eaters are caught by brandishing a slender palm-wood stick dipped in sticky tree sap and then just waiting for them to land.
Taste: Similar to soft-shell crab.
Where They're Eaten: Mexico.
How: The eggs of the giant black Liometopum ant, sometimes called "insect caviar," are harvested from agave plant roots. They're either boiled or fried in butter to be eaten in tacos, or are presented in a bowl with a side of tortillas for the popular dish escamoles.
Taste: Buttery and nutty, with the consistency of cottage cheese.
Where It's Eaten: Botswana, South Africa, Zimbabwe.
How: Many types of caterpillars are eaten all over the world. In parts of Africa, the specific type of fat blue-and-green spiky caterpillar that lives in the mopane tree is prized as a protein-packed free food. After being squeezed to expel green slime from its gut, the worm is dried in the sun or smoked and almost always served with sauce or in a stew to lend it some flavor.
Taste: Bland to buttery.
Where It's Eaten: Mexico.
How: Roasted to a crunch and tossed with chile and lime, chapulines sit in huge mounds at street stands and in markets in Oaxaca. Vendors sell them to folks who consume them by the handful, just like chips.
Taste: Salty and spicy.
Where It's Eaten: Vietnam, China, Korea.
How: The silkworm itself is an edible byproduct of the silk industry, as manufacturers only use the bugs' cocoons to make the cloth. These squirmy little guys are seasoned and boiled in Korea, and fried in China and Vietnam.
Taste: Briny, similar to dried shrimp, with a chewy consistency.
Where It's Eaten: Thailand.
How: These massive critters are a popular snack in Thailand, commonly found in Bangkok street stalls, where they are eaten whole, fried with spicy sauce, or steamed. They're also available roasted and sealed in a can.
Taste: Briny and fruity with a fish-like consistency.
Where It's Eaten: Vietnam, Thailand, China.
How: Also technically an arachnid, not an insect, the scorpion is usually served as street food—scooped up alive and wriggling, skewered on a kebab, and deep-fried in oil.
Taste: Like soft-shell crab or shrimp in its shell.
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