Did you know that the term superfood was originally used, not by nutritionists or chefs, but first seen in 1915 in The United Fruit Company brochure to advertise bananas? With one small pamphlet and many enthusiastic eaters, the yellow fruit became the first of many superfoods. Today the list seems endless- from salmon, kale, and blueberries to turmeric, cacao nibs, and matcha with more foods added on an almost monthly basis. Although they are all full of various nutrients and healing properties, the missing feature seems to be... their sustainable impact. So, how super could they really be?
Looking at superfoods through this new lens, most produce and fish are knocked off the list. There is, however, a food that is hopping its way to the top. Since 2013, edible insects have been crawling their way onto center stage as the next powerhouse snack. Let’s talk crickets- not just a modern phenomenon but an ancient one as well. In just 25 crickets (100g) you get 2x the protein of beef, as much calcium as milk, more iron than spinach, and all essential amino acids. As if the health benefits weren’t super enough, their environmental burden boasts equally impressive numbers. Insects need less water, land, feed, and emit fewer greenhouse gases. AND insects actually create their own closed-loop system- they feed on organic waste like vegetable scraps and their waste is used as fertilizer. Pretty impressive.
Alright, so you know that eating bugs is good but how do you really eat them? I like to serve and enjoy bugs in a cuisine I call, uncomfortable comfort food, dishes you know and love but with a fun buggie twist. Over the last year, I have depended on familiar flavors to keep me going and have specifically relied on Cacio e Pepe. This month I’m sharing my Easy Cacio e Pepe Power Granola. This recipe combines some fun edible upcycling techniques (leftover cooked rice -> puffed rice) with some big buggie boosts from cricket powder and some roasted mealies. Edible insects might seem like a big undertaking, but if you break it down a little bit it gets a lot easier.
Cricket powder, similar to any protein powder, is a tasty and easy way to start building buggie comfortability. The taste is very earthy, slightly nutty, and pairs well with so many things! Add it to batters, doughs, smoothies, butters, broths, really anything that you feel needs a protein lift. I’ve used cricket powder to make Hoppy Homemade Peanut Butter, Chocolate Chirp Muffins, Cricket Fried Chicken and so much more.
Mealworms, or mealies as I am attempting to re-brand them, are buttery, and crunchy! At first glance, they can be a little intimidating, which earns them intermediate status. But, once you have your first bite they are delightful and delicious, if you can eat shrimp with a smile then these should be no problem. Just like seafood, they take on flavors very well so if you sprinkle with your favorite spices and roast them up they should be perfect for any occasion. I like using them in Buggie Blueberry Crumble, Mealworm Latkes, sprinkled on any salad, or paired with any creamy cheese.
Okay, I don’t have cute names for these guys yet but that does not take away from their delicious taste or world of possibilities as ingredients. Grasshoppers and Crickets taste similar, earthy, and nutty when roasted or fried. In many countries (Mexico, Thailand, etc.) they are served straight out of the fryer as street snacks. Ants are actually (don’t tell the others) my favorite insect ingredient. They have a strong citrusy flavor and pair well with sweets and things that normally have a squeeze of lemon, like seafood.
So, let’s redefine superfood but this time looking at the whole picture- from seed to plate, from nose to tail, with sustainability in mind. Whether that means only eating blueberries when they’re in season, ditching the one egg white recipe for some aquafaba and chickpeas which reduces waste, or hopping into the world of edible insects. Being a sustainable eater is simple, it just takes a little strategy!