Locust is the new bacon: the cuisine that creeps and crawls

A A A

We don't know what we're missing by not eating insects, according to a new exhibition launched yesterday by the Natural History Museum.

We don't know what we're missing by not eating insects, according to a new exhibition launched yesterday by the Natural History Museum.

Bugs, bees, moths, ants, termites, weevils, grasshoppers, locusts and their grubs can all be delicious and are packed with nutritional value, the exhibition, Eating Creepy Crawlies, claims. Insects' close relatives, the spiders and scorpions, can be even more tasty, it suggests, with the scariest members of the group, tarantulas, having delicate white flesh on a par with chicken or even lobster, according to people who have tried them.

The exhibition, at the museum's outstation, the Walter Rothschild Zoological Museum at Tring, Hertfordshire, displays a wide range of edible creepy things and is illustrated with stunning photographs of insects as haute cuisine around the world by the American photographer Peter Menzel, complete with tasting notes.

They range from witchetty grubs, the large larvae of cossid moths from Australia which Aborigines have eaten for thousands of years and are good barbecued ("creamy and delicate flesh tasting like nut-flavoured scrambled eggs and mild mozzarella wrapped in filo pastry") to stir-fried female giant red ants from Thailand ("a rich, sour, bacony flavour, rather pungent, needing a sweet and sour accompaniment") and sago grubs from Indonesia ("nice fatty bacon taste but with a very chewy skin").

"It's only in Western society that we don't accept the eating of insects," said Vicki Hope-Walker, the organiser of the exhibition. "But we're now getting more and more diverse in our taste, and if you look back at what we were eating 20 years ago and see how that's changed, I think we might well be eating insects 20 years from now."

Dick Vane-Wright, the Natural History Museum's Keeper of Entomology, and keen entomophage (insect eater) said the aim was "to raise people's awareness of the cultural diversity and the diversity of opportunities that nature offers us."

He said: "If you go round the average supermarket you realise we live off just a few dozen plants and animals. There's no reason why we shouldn't diversify and make our lives more interesting, and in the process develop a greater respect for the diversity of life, rather than regarding a lot of it as yukky or vaguely threatening."

The vast majority of the 1.5m known insect species were hugely beneficial to mankind, he said, but people in the West were affected by the fact that a few had a bad press.

Mr Vane-Wright, who has sampled many insect species, says his two favourites are mopane worms from southern Africa ("big and very meaty, taste like chorizo sausage, go brilliantly with Tabasco sauce") and wax moth larvae ("very sweet, absolutely delicious"). He offers two simple rules for prospective insect eaters: don't eat brightly or contrastingly coloured insects (they are likely to be poisonous) or hairy insects (they probably contain irritants) and always cook them.

The exhibition closes on 10 September with a demonstration of insect cookery by the Bird Cage restaurant in London, which has several insect dishes on the menu and supplied the nibbles for yesterday's launch - locusts with garlic, ginger and lemongrass.

Everyone at the launch who tried the insects enjoyed them - with the ironic exception of Harriet Green, a PhD student at the museum studying bark beetles, who couldn't bring herself to nibble. "I know it's absolutely irrational," she said with a grimace, "but I don't think I can."

Your correspondent can report that the locusts have a deep, woody taste, not unlike smoky bacon and quite pleasant. If you have any more doubts about entomophagy, remember there is biblical authority for it. "These ye may eat: the locust after his kind, and the bald locust after his kind, and the beetle after his kind, and the grasshopper after his kind," - Leviticus, XI, 22.

Or if you're not convinced by that, take the word of the Mayor of Tring, Peter Coneron.

"They go very well with the red wine," he said at the reception yesterday, a glass in one hand and locust in the other. "Or with the white for that matter."

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer

£27500 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Telemarketers / Sales - Home Based - OTE £23,500

£19500 - £23500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Experienced B2B Telemarketer wa...

Recruitment Genius: Showroom Assistant

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This global company are looking for two Showro...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Executive - OTE £25,000

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This publishing company based i...

Day In a Page

Fifa corruption: The 161-page dossier that exposes the organisation's dark heart

The 161-page dossier that exposes Fifa's dark heart

How did a group of corrupt officials turn football’s governing body into what was, in essence, a criminal enterprise? Chris Green and David Connett reveal all
Mediterranean migrant crisis: 'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves,' says Tripoli PM

Exclusive interview with Tripoli PM Khalifa al-Ghweil

'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves'
Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles: How the author foretold the Californian water crisis

Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles

How the author foretold the Californian water crisis
Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison as authorities crackdown on dissent in the arts

Art attack

Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison
Marc Jacobs is putting Cher in the limelight as the face of his latest campaign

Cher is the new face of Marc Jacobs

Alexander Fury explains why designers are turning to august stars to front their lines
Parents of six-year-old who beat leukaemia plan to climb Ben Nevis for cancer charity

'I'm climbing Ben Nevis for my daughter'

Karen Attwood's young daughter Yasmin beat cancer. Now her family is about to take on a new challenge - scaling Ben Nevis to help other children
10 best wedding gift ideas

It's that time of year again... 10 best wedding gift ideas

Forget that fancy toaster, we've gone off-list to find memorable gifts that will last a lifetime
Paul Scholes column: With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards

Paul Scholes column

With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards
Heysel disaster 30th anniversary: Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget fateful day in Belgium

Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget Heysel

Thirty years ago, 39 fans waiting to watch a European Cup final died as a result of a fatal cocktail of circumstances. Ian Herbert looks at how a club dealt with this tragedy
Amir Khan vs Chris Algieri: Khan’s audition for Floyd Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation, says Frank Warren

Khan’s audition for Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation

The Bolton fighter could be damned if he dazzles and damned if he doesn’t against Algieri, the man last seen being decked six times by Pacquiao, says Frank Warren
Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

Fifa corruption arrests

All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

How Stephen Mangan got his range

Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor