Friday, October 10, 2014

Eating grasshoppers

I'm making an effort at an autumn garden this year - spinach, chard and greens mostly.  Our only frost so far did no damage, though I have cold frames standing by.

The more immediate problem is that the grasshoppers are relentlessly gnawing on my greens and turning them to lacework.

A few years ago at this time of year a coyote visited the yard - and I wondered what brought him out in broad daylight.  A few days later I found his scat and saw it was composed entirely of grasshopper and cricket exoskeletons.

I'm taking the coyote's cue and experimenting with eating these greedy critters.  The sustainability folks (including those at the UN) insist that humans' living lightly (or living at all) on the earth is going to involve eating more insects.  As an anthropologist I know that our own culture is pretty odd in its aversion to making use of this otherwise ubiquitous food source.

I had a small butterfly net, and I quickly jerry-rigged a foraging container.  I had an old water-cooler jug sitting around, so I cut the top off at the shoulder, inverted it and duct-taped it in place to make a kind of fish-trap style grasshopper container.  A lacrosse ball settles into the opening perfectly as a handy lid.

I gathered a few dozen in and around the garden - hopefully enough to put a dent in their depredations.  I let them sit for a day, so they could pass whatever greens were in their system.  (Real aficionados give them some hominy or some other starchy grain to eat, I think.)  I dumped them into a plastic bag and put them into the freezer to expire.

Our grasshoppers are fairly petite, so pulling off legs and wings was a niggling and tedious process, toward the end of which I had no interest in eating grasshoppers.  (The next time I won't bother with that labor, since wings and legs come off much easier once they've been cooked.)

We rubbed them with olive oil,  sprinkled on some cajun spices and popped them into the oven at 250 degrees until they turned a crispy magenta (the lone katydid turned golden instead).

I won't lie and say that I took to it right away.  They sure look like bugs, and their texture is fairly . . . um . . . complex, especially if the wings and any legs are included.  But the flavor is actually pretty good.  Eventually, I got into a rhythm - like eating pistachios, but instead of shelling each nut, you  pull off the papery wings, roll any remaining legs off with the side of your thumb and pop it into your mouth.  And I have to say - as far a garden pest measures go - it's a pretty good solution.

I may have another go at it this weekend.  There is still no shortage of grasshoppers.


  1. I am so impressed! I have eaten grasshoppers many times, as they are a luxury food in Oaxaca and of course everybody wants to see the gringa eat bugs :) I can't say they are my favorite, either, but my kids like them a lot. There, they come in many sizes, the bigger the more expensive, and they are toasted and served with the legs on. I can't remember ever seeing wings, though. It's interesting to know that the color is intrinsic to the animal and not, as I had thought, the result of spicing. Chapulines, as they are called, also come in many flavor variations. My favorite are extremely lemony, but a lot of people prefer the garlic flavor. Try using garlic powder! And of course, you are salting them, right? Good for you.

  2. I saw a big juicy one in my garden yesterday. I had not considered eating it, although I wouldn't rule it out. I can imagine they would need a fair bit of salt as the previous reader said.

  3. Well done you. I've tasted these in many parts of Asia and they're pretty tasty. Unfortunately the local birds here are onto them. I had a locust plague last year, which the birds cleaned up in a day.

  4. Well, I'm certainly impressed! I can't imagine eating bugs, but that's only because it's not something we're accustomed to thinking of as food. But if hunger would strike, I'm sure many people would chomp on grasshoppers readily...even me!