Originally created 07/31/98

Seminar exhibits ways to eat insects



ATHENS, Ga. -- Alice Emerson raises all kinds of fruits and vegetables in her garden in Bogart, and she's constantly under attack from insects.

This week she got even at a seminar at the State Botanical Garden called "Why Not Eat Insects?"

Participants sampled low-cholesterol, high-protein treats made from crickets, mealworms and waxworms.

"They're nutritious, first of all," said Lou Kudon, an entomologist with the Clarke County Health Department who led the seminar. "They have more protein than cattle and less fat. Plus, they're already eating our crops, so why not eat them?"

Anyone who's ever eaten fruits or vegetables has eaten tiny bugs consumers rarely see. Shrimp and lobster are bugs from the sea, he said.

Some insects are basically asking to be eaten by virtue of their names, Dr. Kudon added. The scientific name for crickets is "Gryllus," which sounds an awful lot like "grill us" when you say it.

Because some cricket parts are indigestible, the head, wings and legs must be removed. The ovipositor -- egg-laying part of the cricket's anatomy -- must be removed as well, he advised.

What's left is the tender abdomen, suitable for roasting or using in soups or stir fry.

Marinating crickets in a mixture of Louisiana hot sauce and garlic for "Buffalo crickets" is difficult because their tough exoskeleton, or outer body shell, is made of a substance called chitin that is designed to keep water from entering or leaving the insects' bodies.

They are ideal, though, for "crispy cricket curry," using a marinade of chipotle pepper in adobo sauce and honey and a mixture of vegetables, including carrots and yellow squash.

Complementing the entree was a side dish of "cream of mealworm soup." He combined beetle larvae with chicken stock and egg yolks for a taste like cream of mushroom soup.

For dessert -- "candypillars," made from waxworms, moth larvae, sugar and powdered cinnamon.

Laura Conroy, 7, couldn't get enough of them. She finished off the extras after the plate was passed around the table.

"I liked watching him cook, and I like these," she said as she held up a candypillar on a toothpick.

Laura, her 10-year-old sister, Mary, and their mom, Liz, live outside Statham in Jackson County and have eaten bugs before at the Botanical Gardens' Insectival. Every year at the Insectival, Dr. Kudon produces new insect delicacies.

"We went through about 10,000 mealworms and 15,000 crickets at the last one," he said. "We used them in pizzas and chocolate chip cookies, and it all disappeared."

Dr. Kudon's began cooking insects about 30 years ago in graduate school at the University of Georgia. Each student was required to present seminars for the other students, and Dr. Kudon said he wanted to do something different than "insect metabolism or the anatomy of a cricket's antennae."

Most of the faculty refused to eat the bugs, but the students dug in.

"For them, it was a free meal," he said.