Bug Appétit! Can you eat cicadas? An entomology professor shares recipes


KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (NewsNation Now) — If you’re an adventurous eater and dreading the trillions of cicadas that plan to emerge this spring from a 17-year nap in 15 states across the country, try utilizing the insects as an ingredient in your kitchen.

A professor of entomology at the University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture recommends entomophagy— the human consumption of insects. Professor Jerome Grant shared recipes online that he claims are delicious and nutritious.

Grant’s recipes substitute grasshoppers but he recommends using cicadas when they emerge. In a YouTube video, Grant demonstrates how to make a stirfry, street tacos, and dessert with cicadas— which are high in protein, low in fat and gluten-free. The flavor profile of the insects is said to be reminiscent of almonds or asparagus.

There are annual cicadas that come out every year and periodical broods in the U.S. that stay underground for either 13 or 17 years. Different groups come out in different years in different places. This year’s group is called Brood X, as in the Roman numeral 10; and is one of the largest broods seen by the most people. There are 15 broods that still come out regularly. Others have gone extinct.

Grant said the cicadas usually emerge when the soil temperature is just right, usually at night. Once they emerge, they latch onto vertical structures, like trees and utility poles. They molt their skin, emerge from their shells and infamous for their singing. Only the males make noise as part of their mating calls from now until the end of June. Each species has its own song. When the females are interested, they twitch their wings.

The cicadas are harmless to humans and the phenomenon shouldn’t last more than a few weeks.

A couple of caveats— cicada consumption is not recommended for those with shellfish allergies because of how closely related cicadas are to shrimp, lobsters, and crabs. Also, make sure you are harvesting cicadas from areas that are safe and free from pesticides.

If your culinary curiosity isn’t peaked, practical advice from the National Pest Management Association (NPMA) suggests you keep two things handy: earplugs and an umbrella. The earplugs will come in handy if you get sick of their constant singing, which can get as loud as 105 decibels when thousands of them sing simultaneously. That’s the same noise intensity as a lawnmower. An umbrella helps protect you from the clumsy fliers and from “cicada rain” when under trees.

On the other hand, if you’re hooked and looking for more recipes check out evolutionary biologist and ecologist, Jenna Jadin’s cookbook.

Also, “Cooking with Cicadas: Demonstrate your position at the top of the food chain by turning cicadas into delicious snacks, meals and desserts for family and friends” by R. Scott Frothingham is a novelty gift book with legitimate cicada recipes.

Another book to consider is “The Cicada Cookbook” by Chris Royal.

Bug Appétit!

NewsNation affiliate WATE and The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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