“Nobody likes me, everybody hates me. I think I’ll go and eat worms.” One of our Lake County master gardener volunteers and I began singing this song last week as we were discussing an up-and-coming class. I was surprised to know that this goofy little song survived for at least two generations. People have been eating insects for nourishment for millennia around the world. Entomophagy, the act of eating insects, is gaining in popularity in America.
Stateside insectaries are raising insects as a food source for people and universities are conducting studies on incorporating insects into animal feed. According to the University of California-Riverside, “Insects as food are an excellent source of proteins, vitamins, fats and essential minerals.” Manufacturers’ websites boast that cricket flour contains double the amount of protein in beef and chicken. Protein amounts depend on the type of crickets used and the way the flour is prepared. Another benefit to using insects as a food source concerns their production. They use less space, water and cause minimal methane production.
Worldwide, an estimated 2 to 2.5 billion people consume insects as a regular part of their diet. Americans eat insects, too, but most eat them unknowingly. According to California-Riverside, “It has been estimated that the average American eats about two pounds of dead insects and insect parts a year. These bugs are in vegetables, rice, beer, pasta, spinach and broccoli.”
If you are squeamish to the idea, common American products include insects in an unrecognizable form. For example, cricket flour is used as a protein additive when baking and pre-made products can also be purchased, like granola bars made with cricket flour. To make cricket flour, insectaries roast the crickets and then mill them into flour.
The adventurous consumer can also find insects in recognizable forms such as mealworms that have been baked whole and coated in barbecue or cheese flavorings. Whole crickets, grubs, beetles and other insects found online are typically through overseas insectaries.
My family visited the Ozarks this summer and stopped at a novelty shop in Eureka Springs. It was there my nephew purchased bacon cheddar crickets in a small package. I must admit at first I was a bit hesitant to eat them, but he convinced me and we toasted the crickets before we put them down the hatch.
If you are curious about eating insects, plan to attend Creature Cuisine at 11 a.m. on Aug. 19 at the Lake County Extension Center, 1951 Woodlea Road in Tavares. Learn basic insect anatomy, the importance of insects as a food crop and how Americans are including insects in their diet. Samples will be available such as chocolate cricket bark and mealworm cheese straws. Come brave and hungry. Those with shellfish allergies may also be allergic to insects. Those with any food allergies should be aware that food items prepared or distributed as part of UF/IFAS Extension events may contain milk, egg, gluten, wheat, soybean, peanuts, tree nuts, fish and shellfish and could be prepared in a facility that may be exposed to any of these ingredients. The cost is $8 per participant. Registration is required.
We are also offering another insect class and a plant sale on the same day to honor the beautiful butterfly. Saturday in the Gardens: Butterfly Gardening will be at 10 a.m. on Aug. 19 at the Lake County Extension Center. Master Gardeners will present an hour-long class discussing butterfly plants and the butterfly’s life cycle. Participants may register for the class by purchasing the master gardener butterfly bundle, which features three butterfly plants, seeds, a full-color butterfly identification book and the presentation for $30. Participants may also attend the class for $5 without the bundle.
Register for the classes at lake.ifas.ufl.edu or 352-343-4101, ext. 2714.
The Butterfly Plant Sale will be held from 9 a.m. to noon on Aug. 19 at the Lake County Extension Center.
Brooke Moffis is the residential horticulture agent of the UF/IFAS Lake County Extension office. Email email@example.com.