-Before humans had tools to hunt or practice agriculture, insects must have represented an important part of their diet. Evidence of this has been found by analyzing coprolites from caves in USA and Mexico. Coprolites in caves in the Ozark Mountains were found to contain ants, beetle larvae, lice, ticks and mites. This is not unexpected, as most apes are, to a greater or lesser extent, insectivorous.-
But despite its long tradition – and current favor among at least half of the world’s peoples eating insects is still rare, not to mention taboo, in the United States and Europe. However, for the rest of the world, eating insects are considered to be a much sought for delicacy. No way, Jose! Oh yes, sweet darlings – a delicacy!
There is, however, one notable exception to this taboo in Italia. Casu marzu, for example, also called Casu mode or in Italian Formaggio marcio, is a cheese made in Sardinia notable for being riddled with live insect larvae. A female Piophila casei can lay more than five hundred eggs at one time. The eggs hatch and the larvae begin to eat through the cheese. The acid from the maggots’ digestive system breaks down the cheese’s fats, making the texture of the cheese very soft, as described. By the time it is ready for consumption, a typical Casu marzu will contain thousands of these maggots. Appetizing, isn’t it ?
In many towns, especially in southern Mexico, Jumiles are part of the diet. This Mexican comestible bugs is called Xotlinilli (mountain bug) or Jumil. They belong to the Pentatomidae family and the most appreciated species are Atizies taxcoensis and Edessa mexicana (called Chumil). They may be and usually are eaten alive because Jumiles can live up to one week after the cooking process, which includes be-headeding and toasting. These bugs are small, a little less than 1 cm (females are bigger than males). The consumers say they have a specific cinnamon flavor coming from the stems and leaves they feed upon, others say they have a bitter medicinal flavor, probably due to their high iodine content. They are also rich in vitamin B2 and B3.
During pre-Hispanic times, pilgrimages were made to Cerro del Huixteco, a hill close to Taxco in which stood a temple dedicated to the Jumil, the Mexican name for the stink bug. In present day Taxco, the pilgrimage has evolved into a fiesta. Each November, on the first Monday after the Day of the Dead, local people assemble in the forests of Cerro del Huixteco to search for Jumiles under leaves, logs, and rocks. They eat the Jumiles alive in their tacos and quesadillas or grind them up and use them as an ingredient in their salsas. Timed to the migration schedule of the Jumiles, the Dia de Jumile is capped with the crowning of the Jumil Queen. Aside from the state of Guerrero – which is where Taxco is – other regions of Mexico also regard stink bugs as gustatory delights. There’s nearby Morelos where a smaller cousin of the Jumile, called a Chumile, is sold in the markets.
Many modern Entomophagers contend that insects should be the food of the future. They note that insects are nutritionally superior to many other meat protein sources, such as beef and chicken. In addition, insects are abundant some 1,500 species have been deemed “edible”. For instance, a task force affiliated with the Japanese space agency has looked to insects like silkworms and termites as a self-replenishing supply of fats and amino acids for astronauts on extended missions.
As many as you may know, Mexico is not the only country that esteems the nutritional and gustatory benefits of stink bugs. In Viet Nam, stink bugs are called bọ-xít and are part of the local cuisine. The same is true in neighboring Laos, where stink bugs are prized for their pungent odour and are ground up together with herbs, spices, and chillies to be used as an ingredient in their condiment called cheo. Stink bugs are also eaten in Irian Jaya (also known as West Papua), a part of Indonesia. In Thailand, stink bugs are fried and enjoyed as a finger food as well as a main course, and they are used as a base for chilli paste. So what’s on the menu for lunch today?
1 lb Jumiles,
3 cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped
10 squash blossom, washed
1 Serrano chile, seeded and diced
1 lime cut into wedges
1 cup Mexican crumbling cheese
1/2 of an onion, chopped
1/2 cup of oil for frying
Salt to taste
Heat t oil in a shallow pan and sauté the garlic, chile and the onions until the onions are translucent. With a slotted spoon, remove and discard the onions, chile and the garlic from the oil, leaving the oil in the pan. Saute the Jumiles in the oil until they are light brown. Remove and drain them well, on paper towels. Sprinkle salt over the top, and then squeeze some lime over them. Set aside. Heat tortillas in a flat pan, then fill with the sauté Jumiles and serve with a slide of chile Serrano, squash blossom, and crumbling cheese.
Note -If you want to enjoy them live in a taco, use some guacamole or Chiltomate sauce to keep the Jumiles in the taco before they run away from your plate. 😉