Humankind have been eating cicadas for centuries, it seems. Eaten skewered, deep-fried or stir-fried, they are known to have been enjoyed as far back as Ancient Greece as well as in China, Malaysia, Burma, Latin America and the Congo. Aside from its value as a delicious snack, the high protein content and medicinal value of the cicada shell has long been recognised by the Chinese people, who believe that cicadas can invigorate the kidney and strengthen ‘yang’ (the ‘qi’ of men). No wonder the price for a kilo of processed cicadas has topped 130 yuan! Recently, the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organisation released a report hinting that edible insects could be considered one of the solutions to the global food shortage. Dubbed “shrimp of the land”, periodical cicadas such as the Magicicada from North America, spend 17 years slowly growing underground and feeding on tree roots, before bursting out in large numbers. Historically eaten by Native Americans, modern chefs have created innovative ways of devouring the bug. For those who feel squeamish when thinking about eating a cicada on a stick, other alternatives have emerged such as cicada-flavoured ice cream, or used as an ingredient in dishes such as tacos, pizza, sushi or tossed in a salad.
nd In 2011, a Missouri ice cream store produced an intriguing cicada flavored batch that sold out in no time, as people were eager to give the unusual treat a try.When the store went to make their second batch, local health officials expressed their concerns even though biologists report the bug as edible, so the flavor was discontinued. Low-carb and gluten-free, the crunchy beady-eyed snack is suitable in small doses, but those with shellfish allergies are told to stay away as they may also be allergic to cicadas.While male cicadas are known for their singing abilities, the female cicada is prized to be meatier as they can be slightly bigger. Aside from cicadas, other insects potentially saving us from starvation also include beetles, butterfly larva, bees, ants and locusts. In 2004, "cicada" ranked 6th in Merriam-Webster's Words of the Year.
Deep-fried cicada, a Chinese delicacy
Sparky’s Homemade Ice Cream in Columbia, Missouri Cicada peanut butter cups from "A Cook's Guide" (Marilyn Pocius).