As if to underscore that claim, a
group of students from McGill University in Montreal has won the 2013 Hult
Prize, for producing a protein-rich flour made from insects. The prize gives the
students $1 million in seed money to begin creating what they call Power Flour.
"We will be starting with grasshoppers," team captain Mohammed Ashour told
ABC News on Monday (Sept. 30).
Earlier this year, the Food and
Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) released a report titled,
"Edible Insects: Future Prospects for Food and Feed Security." The document
details the health and environmental benefits derived from a diet supplemented
by insects, a diet also known as "entomophagy." Gleaned from the FAO document
and other sources, here's a list of seven
edible insects you may soon find on your dinner plate.
Mopane caterpillars — the larval
stage of the emperor moth (Imbrasia belina) — are common throughout the southern
part of Africa. Harvesting of mopane caterpillars is a
multi-million dollar industry in the region, where women and children
generally do the work of gathering the plump, little insects.
The caterpillars are
traditionally boiled in salted water, then sun-dried; the dried form can last
for several months without refrigeration, making them an important source of
nutrition in lean times. And few bugs are more nutritious: Whereas the iron
beef is 6 mg per 100 grams of dry weight, mopane caterpillars pack a
whopping 31 mg of iron per 100 grams. They're also a good source of potassium,
sodium, calcium, phosphorous, magnesium, zinc, manganese and copper, according
to the FAO.
Want to get rid of the
termites gnawing at your floorboards? Just do like they do in South America
and Africa: Take advantage of the rich nutritional quality of these insects by
frying, sun-drying, smoking or steaming termites in banana leaves.
Termites generally consist of up
to 38 percent protein, and one particular Venezuelan species, Syntermes
aculeosus, is 64 percent protein. Termites are also rich in
iron, calcium, essential fatty acids and amino acids such as tryptophan.
Among the aboriginal people of
Australia, the witchetty grub is a dietary staple. When eaten raw, the grubs
taste like almonds; when cooked lightly in hot coals, the skin develops the
crisp, flavorful texture of roast chicken. And the witchetty grub is chock full
of oleic acid, a healthful omega-9 monounsaturated fat.
Though people often refer to the
larvae of several different moths as witchetty grubs, some sources specify the
larval stage of the cossid moth (Endoxyla leucomochla) as the true witchetty
grub. The grubs are harvested from underground, where they feed upon the roots
of Australian trees such as eucalyptus and black wattle trees.
Chapulines are grasshoppers of
the genus Sphenarium, and are widely eaten throughout southern Mexico. They're
often served roasted (giving them a satisfying crunch) and flavored with garlic,
lime juice and salt, or with guacamole or dried chili
powder. The grasshoppers are known as rich sources of protein; some claim that
the insects are more than 70 percent protein.
Researchers have noted that the
gathering of Sphenarium grasshoppers is an attractive alternative to spraying
pesticides in fields of alfalfa and other crops. Not only does this eliminate
the environmental hazards associated with
pesticide sprays, it also gives the local people an extra source of
nutrition and income, from the sale of grasshoppers.
A delicacy among many African
tribes, the palm weevil (Rhychophorus phoenicis) is collected off the trunks of
palm trees. About 4 inches (10 centimeters) long and two inches (5 cm) wide, the
weevils are easily pan-fried because their bodies are full of fats, though
they're also eaten raw.
A 2011 report from the Journal of
Insect Science found that the African palm weevil is an excellent source of
several nutrients such as potassium, zinc, iron and phosphorous, as well as
several amino acids and healthy monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids.
Their name certainly doesn't lend
itself to culinary appeal, but stink bugs (Hemiptera order) are consumed
throughout Asia, South America and Africa. The insects are a rich source of
important nutrients, including protein, iron, potassium and phosphorus.
Because stink bugs release a
noxious scent, they are not usually eaten raw unless the head is first removed,
which discards their scent-producing secretions. Otherwise, they are roasted, or
soaked in water and sun-dried. As an added benefit, the soaking water — which
absorbs the noxious secretions — can then be used as a pesticide to keep
termites away from houses.
The larvae of the mealworm beetle
(Tenebrio molitor) is one of the only insects consumed in the Western world:
They are raised in the Netherlands for human consumption (as well as for animal
feed), partly because they thrive in a temperate climate.
The nutritional value of
mealworms is hard to beat: They're rich in
copper, sodium, potassium, iron, zinc and selenium. Mealworms are also
comparable to beef in terms of protein content, but have a greater number of
healthy, polyunsaturated fats.
Source: Live Science URL: