Adventurous eaters chow down on cicadas
By Jennifer Justus, The Tennessean
Updated 05/29/2011 1:37 AM
NASHVILLE -- Ashlee Horne took a swig of tequila before popping a cicada into her mouth.
By Shelley Mays, The Tennessean
The Nashville native, who has weathered her share of 13-year cicada cycles, handled it with far more grace than a "Fear Factor" contestant: no tears, no trips to the nearest restroom.
After all, the insects have been enjoyed as culinary delicacies around the world for centuries. So why not in her kitchen ?
"We talked about it and (her husband, Jeffrey) said, 'You know people really eat them,' " she recalled, talking over dinner recently. "One of our relatives even said they taste really good with tempura batter and buttermilk."
Later that evening, they were in the yard with a pair of tongs, and then they had a skillet of butter, garlic and red-eyed critter.
But before noses turn up at the Hornes' choice of post-dinner snack, it's worth mentioning that the cicada comes from the Arthropoda group of creatures along with lobster, shrimp, crayfish and crab. According to Jenna Jadin of the University of Maryland, the inexpensive sources of protein are a staple in diets of Australian aborigines, New Guineans, Thai and American Indians. They were considered a special treat in ancient Greece and Rome and still are in Japan.
Before you eat a cicada
• Check with your doctor. The University of Maryland recommends consulting with your physician before consuming cicadas. Pesticides and other chemical accumulation is possible though it should not pose a problem unless large amounts of the insect are eaten. The nutritional content also is unknown, so please take special caution if you have other food allergies such as soy, nuts, or shellfish, or contact allergies to other insects.
• Choose wisely. Newly hatched cicadas called tenerals are considered best for eating because their shells have not yet hardened. Collect them in the early hours of the morning just after they have emerged but before they have time to climb out of reach. Simply scoop them into a brown paper bag.
• Blanche or boil. Cicadas should be blanched (or boiled for 4 to 5 minutes) before eating and soon after they have been collected. Blanching helps their insides solidify a bit and will reduce the chance of any soil bacteria that could be living on or in them.
Source: Jenna Jadin and University of Maryland Cicadamaniacs, 2004
This year, Brood XIX cicadas have been emerging in parts of 14 Southern and Midwestern states.
So how does a cicada taste?