High-protein, low-carbohydrate diet fanatics take note: The billions of cicadas emerging from the ground en masse this spring may just be that new healthy alternative you've been looking for.
For the avid survivalist, this is the perfect time (and the only time you will have in the next 17 years to catch so many of them) to try your hand at cooking these little buggers.
“They're high in protein, low in fat, no and have 0 carbs,” said Gene Kritsky, a biologist and cicada expert at the College of Mount St. Joseph in Cincinnati, Ohio. “They're quite nutritious and a good source of vitamins.”
Cicadas spend most of their lives underground sucking sap from tree roots.
The plant-based diet gives them a green, asparagus-like flavor, especially when eaten raw or boiled, according to Kritsky. The researcher has been looking forward to trying a cicada-vegetable medley.
Crawfish, lobster, crab, and shrimp are part of the same biological phylum—arthropods—as insects.
A few quick facts about Cicadas:
Cicadas are often mistakenly called locusts, but locusts are migratory grasshoppers that often travel in vast swarms. The appearance of cicadas in large numbers apparently caused the early European settlers in North America to equate them with the plague of locusts mentioned in the Bible.
• Cicadas are said to make good eating because they are low in fat and high in protein. They are considered a delicacy by many people around the world. The European settlers in North America observed the Indians eating them.
• Experts say that the best way to eat cicadas is to collect them in the middle of the night as they emerge from their burrows and before their skins harden. When they are in this condition—like soft-shell crabs—they can be boiled for about a minute. It is said they taste like asparagus or clam-flavored potato.
• The animal world pigs out on the cicada feast. Particularly, songbirds make good use of the bonanza, and their young are well supplied with the nutritious insects. Moles are said to flourish on the fully grown nymphs in the weeks prior to emergence. Other wild animals that enjoy the advantage include snakes and spiders.
• Dogs and cats may also treat the cicada horde as a bit of a flying buffet. It does them no harm, although as with everything else moderation is key.
If they eat too many they may have some difficulty digesting the cicada skins. There have been reported cases of dogs' digestive tracts becoming blocked by eating too many cicadas and if thy eat them to fast they do risk choking on the legs.
• Only the males sing. The females are lured to the sound and fly nearer. A female responds to a male with a flick of her wings. The two gradually draw close to one another until they meet for mating.
• In China male cicadas are kept in cages in people's homes so that the homeowners can enjoy the cicadas' songs.
•Eating insects for food is common throughout the world and dates back thousands of years, Kritsky said. For example, in parts of Africa, scarab beetles are considered a delicacy. In the U.S., however, there is a cultural aversion to bugs.
Jadin's brochure begins with a disclaimer from the University of Maryland asking would-be cicada eaters to first consult a doctor because, like all foods, certain individuals may have an allergic reaction.
Despite the warning, Jadin said there is no evidence to suggest that cicadas are unsafe to eat. Her only concern is the cicadas that emerge in areas heavily treated with pesticides and herbicides, as the insects could have absorbed the chemicals in their bodies.
“Given that it's likely people won't be feasting on cicadas, just eating a few of them, even if they have [absorbed] chemicals it's no worse than eating fish from the Great Lakes,” Jadin said. “If [people] survived that, they'll probably survive eating a plateful of cicada.”
David George Gordon, a science writer in Port Townsend, Washington, whose Eat-A-Bug Cookbook includes a recipe for cicada-topped pizza, said he is unaware of any adverse health impacts of eating cicada. Or as he put it, “Bug appetit.”
The only consequence of cicada feasting that Kritsky is aware of is overindulgence, especially on the part of the family dog or favorite backyard squirrel. The animals may be enticed to gobble cicadas so quickly that the bugs could block the animals' throat.
“Just imagine how you would react if inundated with thousands of flying Hershey Kisses,” Kritsky said. “You might go nuts. I'd go nuts. That's what happens to dogs or squirrels.”
Eaten in moderation, most experts agree that cicadas are a good source of protein (about the same amount pound per pound as red meat) and are full of vitamins and minerals.
So, are you ready to try a cicada? Aspiring gourmands must first begin by collecting the raw ingredients. The insects are best eaten just after the nymphs break open their skin and before their exoskeleton turns black and hard, cicada aficionados say.
These newly hatched cicadas are called tenerals. Jadin said they are best collected in the early morning hours just after the insects emerge from the ground but before they crawl up a tree, where they are harder to reach.
If tenerals are unavailable, the next best menu item is adult females. Their bellies are fat and full of nutritious eggs.
Adult males, however, offer little to eat. More crunch than munch, their abdomens are hollow. (This enables the flirtatious tunes they strum on body structures known as tymbals to resonate.) With raw cicadas in hand, preparation is a matter of chef's choice. Kritsky said, “Most people like them deep fried and dipped in a sauce like a hot mustard or cocktail sauce.” Other people boil or blanch them.
Jadin says cicadas take on a “nutty” flavor when roasted. She notes that many cicada recipes call for a lot of spices and sauce, which usually winds up being the dominant flavor.
If cooking with cicadas is something that interests you, be sure to check out the cookbook I found specifically for cicadas in this weeks practical prepper :
Now on to the wine: red or white?
P.S. Want to find out where and when the next Cicada horde will emerge so that you can head out for a bite, or seal yourself up indoors?
Check out the maps below from cicadamania.com (If none of the “big broods” are in your area, don't fret, you'll still get a chance with the annual cicada harvest.)
|I||17||2012, 2029||TN, VA, WVA|
|II||17||1996, 2013||CT, MD, NC, NJ, NY, PA, VA||Brood II map|
|III||17||1997, 2014||IA, IL, MO||Brood III map|
|IV||17||1998, 2015||IA, KS, MO, NE, OK, TX||Brood IV map|
|V||17||1999, 2016||OH, PA, VA, WVA||Brood V map|
|VI||17||2000, 2017||GA, NC, SC||Brood VI map|
|VII||17||2001, 2018||NY||Brood VII map|
|VIII||17||2002, 2019||OH, PA, WVA||Brood VIII map|
|IX||17||2003, 2020||NC, VA, WVA||Brood IX map|
|X||17||2004, 2021||DE, GA, IL, IN, KY, MD, MI, NC, NJ, NY, OH, PA, TN, VA, WVA, Washington DC||Brood X map|
|XIII||17||2007, 2024||IA, IL, IN, MI, WI||Brood XIII map|
|XIV||17||2008, 2025||KY, GA, IN, MA, MD, NC, NJ, NY, OH, PA, TN, VA, WVA||Brood XIV map|
|XIX||13||2011, 2024||AL, AR, GA, IL, IN, KY, LA, MO, MS, NC, OK, SC, TN, VA||Brood XIX map|
|XXII||13||2001, 2014||LA, MS||Brood XXII map|
|XXIII||13||2002, 2015||AR, IL, IN, KY, LA, MO, MS, TN||Brood IV map|
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