PHIL WIELAND: Bugs: they're not just for squashing any more

2013-07-12T00:00:00Z PHIL WIELAND: Bugs: they're not just for squashing any moreBy Phil Wieland nwitimes.com
July 12, 2013 12:00 am  • 

The United Nations says one solution to world hunger is: Eat more bugs.

If he were still alive, the Porter County guy with all the anti-United Nations signs would be painting a passel of new ones on that topic, but I can think of two very good reasons why the U.N. might be right.

First, my grocery bill. It's tough to get out of the store without spending roughly the GNP of a Third World country. The chicken wings they once practically paid you to take off their hands now cost almost as much as prime rib.

Second, I occasionally dream of retirement. The dream vanishes when I look at my expected income from Social Security and my 401K and realize even cat food is going to be beyond my ways and means because my ways will be pretty mean.

According to a National Geographic article by Jennifer Holland, more than 1,900 insect species are considered edible, and many are a regular part of the diet of some 2 billion people. Most of these people can afford little else, much like me in retirement.

The bugs are not only edible but tasty and nutritious, according to the article. I went back for seconds on chocolate covered ants as a teenager but was too timid to try the crickets and other pan fried insect offerings at a Porter County Fair booth. So I'm obviously conflicted here.

When I saw about two dozen June bugs clinging to my front door screen recently, my first thought was not "Yum, dinner."

But according to the article, June bugs -- along with long-horned, dung and rhinoceros beetles -- are among the most commonly eaten and protein-rich bugs around.

Reportedly the beetles can be roasted and eaten like popcorn, but I don't think you could roast a dung beetle long enough for me willingly to pop one in my mouth. Rhinoceros beetles can be huge, and their horns probably make good handles for dipping in a nice sweet-and-sour or tangy BBQ sauce.

Ants have more protein than eggs, hefty doses of calcium and iron, and they are low-cal and low-carb. I've probably got a metric ton of them in my yard, but rounding up enough of the little buggers for a decent meal could be challenging.

The larva of bees, flies, mosquitoes, butterflies and others are on many menus, but the best news is grasshoppers, crickets and locusts are protein-rich and take on the flavor of whatever you add. That's not a plague of locusts coming to destroy the land. It's an endless buffet.

The iffiest item from the insect menu has to be the stinkbug. Holland said they can be a valuable source of iodine, are known to have anesthetic and analgesic properties and add an apple flavor to sauces.

Apple flavor or not, the only way I see myself eating one is under an anesthetic, possibly with a dung beetle chaser.

The opinions are those of the writer. He can be reached at phil.wieland@nwi.com or (219) 548-4352.

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