How to Cook Cicadas: A Guide to Eating Your Way Through the Invasion
All over the Northeast and South, people are preparing for the emergence of 13-year and 17-year cicadas.
According to Mother Nature News, these loud but harmless creatures have been living underground since the mid-'90s, lying in wait for the opportunity to fly about and mate like crazy for two months before the surviving cicadas return to the earth to sit out another decade-plus.
Though there are many groups and subspecies of cicadas, the southernmost group is called the "Great Southern Brood" and should emerge by mid-May, when they will loudly go through their series of mating calls until about mid-July. The "Brood" has already been spotted in Georgia, and although they probably won't make their way to South Florida, we do have annual cicadas here.
This is all fascinating, but what does it have to do with food? Well, according to Michael Raupp, professor of entomology at the University of Maryland and author of the Bug of the Week blog, cicadas are delicious and nutritious.
In fact, the University of Maryland has published an online cookbook, titled Cicada-Licious, filled with recipes. The introduction reminds us that though we might be squeamish about eating creepy crawlers, if we enjoy the occasional shrimp, lobster, or crab, we're already eating members of the class Arthropoda -- of which insects are a part.
And, of course, we're eating insects all the time in both organic and processed foods. Just check out these FDA guidelines that state the amount of "insect filth" that's allowable in chocolate for you to never feel good about candy again.
Cicadas, in fact, were ancient Roman and Greek delicacies, valued for their "nutty" flavor and high protein content.
If you try cicadas, look for newly hatched insects that emerge from the ground in the early morning. Called tenerals, they're easier to cook because their shells haven't fully hardened yet. To collect them, just scoop them into a brown paper bag before they get a chance to fly away. Also females are fatter and tastier than males.
As soon as possible, blanch the cicadas in boiling water for about five minutes to solidify their insides and kill any soil bacteria. Then remove the hard parts like the wings and legs and you're ready to fry, sauté, or roast your cicadas.
Here's a recipe for cicada tossed with pasta, taken from Cicada-Licious.
The Simple Cicada
- 2 cups blanched cicadas
- Butter to sauté
- Two cloves crushed garlic
- Two tbsp finely chopped fresh basil, or to taste
- Your favorite pasta
Melt butter in sauté pan over medium heat. Add garlic and sauté for 30 seconds. Add basil and cicadas and continue cooking, turning down the heat if necessary, for five minutes or until the cicadas begin to look crispy and the basil is wilted. Toss with pasta and olive oil. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese if desired.
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