I’m sure you’ve seen ‘survival’ programs where the expert host turns over a log, finds a solitary grub and goes on to explain how insects are a great resource, especially in emergency backcountry situations. While insects are a viable food source, the portions needed to provide needed nutrition can vary greatly.
Over eighty percent of the world’s population (over 2 billion people) dine on over 2,000 species of edible insects. Upwards of 200 grasshopper species alone are listed as food sources.
The nutritional benefits of eating insects make them more bio-available than livestock muscle (meat) or wheat. They are a significant source of protein, beneficial fats, vitamins, minerals, antitoxins and prebiotic fiber. One insect is not going to put a dent into your nutritional/fuel food needs – you’re going to need a handful, literally, to reach a level of consumption that actually helps sustain your body’s needs.
For example, the average weight of a single cricket (a popular food source around the world – it has three times the vitamin B12 as a serving of salmon!) – is about 0.5 grams. One gram equals 0.35 ounces. Doing the math tells us that it will take about 24 cricket to equal a quarter pound of meat.
By comparison, those four ounces of crickets has about 120 calories compared to the same portion of steak offering 336 calories; 15 grams of protein vs. the steak’s 30+; and there’s about six grams of fat in the tasty little hoppers compared to almost 24 grams in that steak.
When you do comparative math with termites: it would take about 3,300 termites to give you six calories per gram (0.35 oz,)!
Preparing most insects prior to eating usually involves removing all those appendages that might get caught in or scratch you throat: wings, legs, antennas, etc.. Most insects are then roasted on sticks or rocks or tossed into boiling water – oftentimes with other food items (either as in a stew or ground/crushed and mixed in).
Some preferred eating/cooking methods for critter cuisine include:
Ants – boiling to neutralize acids in their bodies; larvae/grubs – skewered, roasted over fire; june bugs – grilled or sautèed; roly polys – roasted/fried (said to taste a bit like shrimp. Believe it or not stink bugs and cockroaches are edible insects, too…usually boiled, fried or roasted before being consumed.
Combining these insect options with edible plants could provide you with several delectable table fares, whether you are in a survival situation or not. It’s important for your health to remember a few of the caveats of eating plants and animals in an emergency:
- Just because it’s edible doesn’t mean it’s going to taste good;
- If you don’t know what it is, don’t eat it!;
- If unsure, eat a very small portion, wait a day and see how your body reacts;
- Typically bright, vibrant-colored insects are toxic;
- Don’t expend more energy (calories) than you’ll be able to replace from the food you are seeking.
You can go for many days, weeks perhaps, without eating. And, it may take a fist full of bugs to get the nutritional value of a big, juicy quarter pound of meat, but at least there’s no need to starve in most emergency situations.
Be Safe! Be Smart! Have Fun!