Don’t bug out over eat­ing in­sects

Monarch fes­ti­val fea­tures lessons, recipes, sam­ples

San Antonio Express-News (Sunday) - - Metro - By Liz Teitz STAFF WRITER LTeitz@ex­ | @LizTeitz

Cindy Rei­dinger pinched the cot­ton candy stick between her glossy red nails, hold­ing it up and smil­ing for a selfie — un­til the can­died silk­worm perched on top tum­bled to the floor.

“Oh, no! I lost my worm,” she said, scan­ning her plate for an­other.

She picked up an­other silk­worm pupa and re­placed it on the cot­ton candy, snap­ping a pic­ture be­fore tak­ing a bite.

Rei­dinger sat ea­gerly in the front row of Satur­day’s “In­cred­i­ble, Edi­ble In­sects” event at the San An­to­nio Botan­i­cal Gar­den, part of the Monarch But­ter­fly and Pol­li­na­tor Fes­ti­val.

She and a few dozen oth­ers watched as four San An­to­nio chefs pre­pared and served a four-course tast­ing meal, each fea­tur­ing a dif­fer­ent type of in­sect.

Grasshop­pers, crick­ets, bee lar­vae and silk­worm pupa are high in protein, and low in fat, said Robert Nathan Allen, founder of the non­profit Lit­tle Herds and an ad­vo­cate of eat­ing in­sects, known as en­to­mophagy. In­sects are also con­sid­ered more sus­tain­able than meat be­cause they re­quire less wa­ter and pro­duce much smaller amounts of green­house gases meth­ane and ni­trous ox­ide than an­i­mal agri­cul­ture, he said.

Some, like the crick­ets used Satur­day, are raised specif­i­cally to be eaten, while oth­ers, like the bee lar­vae, would have been killed by other bees as part of their nat­u­ral life cy­cle if they hadn’t been used for the meal.

While in­sect-based foods are pop­u­lar around the world, “we’re just be­hind the times,” said Stephen Paprocki, who topped tor­tillas with cof­fee-black­ened cha­pu­lines, or grasshop­pers. He added pico de gallo and sour cream to make street ta­cos.

Rei­dinger, who said she’s in­ter­ested in sus­tain­abil­ity and “al­ways look­ing to try some­thing new,” com­pared the taste and tex­ture to dried shrimp.

Chef Dave Ter­razas mixed cricket pow­der, made from des­ic­cated and ground crick­ets, with flour. He used that to make a roux for a shrimp étouf­fée. The pow­der has a slightly nutty taste, and is bal­anced by the flour and the strong fla­vors of the veg­eta­bles in the recipe, Ter­razas said.

Cricket pow­der, which can eas­ily be in­cor­po­rated in dishes, was the most ac­ces­si­ble way to start eat­ing in­sects more reg­u­larly, sev­eral at­ten­dees said.

En­to­mol­o­gist Mor­gan Lucke, who en­joyed Joshua Sch­wenke’s north­ern Thai pork sausage with bee lar­vae, said find­ing the in­gre­di­ents posed the big­gest chal­lenge to cook­ing with in­sects.

“I think we’ll dip into the world of eat­ing crick­ets,” said Lyn King-Sisco, who brought her 11-year-old son Caden Sisco with her to the event, where they were in- trigued by gra­nola and pasta made with crick­ets. Both en­joyed the dessert, made by Michael Grimes.

Grimes filled ap­ples, which were dam­aged by hail and con­sid­ered “im­per­fect pro­duce,” with a pump­kin cream cheese fill­ing.

He served that with toasted pump­kin seeds, a streusel and cot­ton candy spun from cane sugar and maple sugar, all topped with can­died silk­worms.

Satur­day’s lunch and other ac­tiv­i­ties at the Botan­i­cal Gar­den were part of the three-day fes­ti­val that in­cluded a dis­cus­sion on the monarch but­ter­fly mi­gra­tion, an art show and a con­ver­sa­tion about the role of bats in mak­ing tequila and mez­cal.

Lo­cal teach­ers gath­ered Satur­day at the San An­to­nio River Author­ity and Bon­ham Ele­men­tary School to learn ways to in­cor­po­rate but­ter­flies into their lessons, such as mon­i­tor­ing milk­weed plants and build­ing por­ta­ble gar­dens that at­tract but­ter­flies, bees and other pol­li­na­tors.

The fes­ti­val ends to­day at the Pearl from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. with a Peo­ple for Pol­li­na­tors Pa­rade, demon­stra­tions of tag­ging but­ter­flies to track their mi­gra­tion, plant­ing a pol­li­na­tor gar­den and a re­lease of tagged but­ter­flies at noon.

Marvin Pfeif­fer / Staff pho­tog­ra­pher

Ed­mond Mad­son, 11, hes­i­tates as dad Sa­muel of­fers him a grasshopper taco. Brother Gabriel, 9, awaits the re­sult at the “In­cred­i­ble, Edi­ble In­sects” lunch.

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