The Cicadas Are Coming. Let’s Eat Them!

High-end, and with an appealingly low carbon footprint. Farming insects is much more efficient than raising conventional livestock, and the environmental case for eating insects is gaining momentum. “It takes much less land, much less energy,” says entomologist Jessica Ware, a curator at the American Museum of Natural History. “As people in the northern hemisphere continue to use resources at the rate in which we use them, we’re going to need to make some change. And entomophagy would be a really good one in terms of sustainability.” Another do-gooder reason to consider the insect: Because they’re easy to harvest, they are seen as potential six-legged silver bullets for combating food insecurity.

With so many benefits to upping consumption, many people see insect-eating as part of food’s inevitable future. Investors are banking on Big Bug. (Market researchers predict the global edible insect market will reach $4.63 billion by 2027, with North America as the fastest-growing sector.) And even squeamish Americans are becoming more amenable to bug-based snacks. When toasted grasshoppers made the menu at Seattle’s T-Mobile ballpark for Mariners games in 2017, they quickly became a top-selling concession. You can find Chirps chips—made from crickets—at grocery stores across the country, including regional chains like ShopRite and Mom’s Organic.

But edible insects are still closer to a novelty than a staple in the standard American diet, which is why Yoon is using Brood X to get people pumped about creepy-crawlies. Over the next few weeks, he’s planning to catch hundreds of thousands of cicadas. Like short-season delicacies such as ramps, the tiny above-ground lifespan of the cicada means there’s no time to waste. In addition to preparing the insects for various pop-up dinners and demonstrations at his own test kitchen, Yoon also intends to preserve mass quantities of the insects through roasting, freeze-drying, and dehydrating, so that they can be used as an ingredient after the short window of seasonality is over.

Despite rising enthusiasm, cicadas aren’t exactly the new ramps, though. You’d think that the once-every-17-years uniqueness of the bugs could make them a hip new dish, but when I tried to find a restaurant in Brooklyn that planned to incorporate them into their menu as a seasonal delicacy, I struck out. People who want to be ahead of the curve, however, don’t have to wait for haute cuisine to catch up. There’s another option—home cooking. Seventeen years ago, when ecologist Jenna Jadin was a graduate student at the University of Maryland, she wrote a book of cicada-based recipes, cementing her love of entomophagy and picking up pointers for others who want to. (She’s hoping to update the book, Cicada-licious: Cooking and Enjoying Periodical Cicadas, since she didn’t actually test all the recipes—but for now, it’s still available for free online.) She recommends collecting cicadas in a Ziploc bag and then freezing them as the easiest way to euthanize them. (An important note: foraging of cicadas should not be undertaken in areas with industrial waste or heavy pesticide use, for obvious reasons, and people who have shellfish allergies should be aware there’s a heightened chance they’ll have a reaction.) She’s partial to chocolate-covered cicadas, but says that savory recipes can be tasty, too—it all comes down to how they’re prepared. “You want to remove the legs and the wings,” she says. “Those aren’t particularly nice.”

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