Your most vital nutritional needs in a survival situation are protein and fat. Most insects are rich in both. Turn off your cultural bias against eating insects. Edible bugs are good “survival food”. 😉
Escamoles… It’s what’s for dinner!
May seem disgusting at first glance, but dietitians say they can be delicious and nutritious. But wait… what in the world are Escamoles! (Okay… don’t panic, that’s nothing to the Casu Marzu from Italy or the baby mice wine from Korea) Yes, amigo, they’re nothing more than the eggs of the giant and black Liometopum ant. Escamoles are the larvae of ants, harvested from the roots of the agave or maguey plant. Ahuautli or ahuautle (Syrphids fly) was called “Mexican caviar” by at least 1953. Escamoles (ant larvae) has been called “Mexican caviar” since at least 1989 and most commonly holds the nickname today. If you’ve spent any time in Mexico, you’ve probably seen the maguey cactus; it’s practically the home for this exotic and nutritional ‘worm’. You can harvest the ant larvae from the beginning of the rainy season in the spring until late autumn.
Mexico have a native dish called ‘escamoles’ in Central Mexico, once considered a delicacy by the Aztecs. As far as insect-related pre-Hispanic foods go, this one is better than it sounds. The light-colored eggs, resemble white-corn kernels or pine nuts. Often pan-fried with butter and spices, escamoles can be found in tacos and omelets or served alone, accompanied by guacamole and tortillas. It’s indigenous, tasty, and memorable, without the gross-out factor of those fried crickets and bugs (another common pre-Hispanic insect food). Those who enjoy escamoles say they’re creamy like cottage cheese, with a buttery, nutty flavor.
Liometopum ants are among the most voracious of aphid predators; which together with the impossibility of reproducing all year, makes it difficult to use and makes the escamoles in a very expensive dish. Aphids feed by sucking plant juices, which is damaging enough, but the most serious damage comes from the plant diseases they carry. They also produce honeydew. This can grow an unsightly, and potentially fatal, sooty black mold, which hoses off, or washes off with soapy water. Aphids multiply so rapidly because they’re born pregnant. In fact, there are tiny secondary embryos inside the first embryos. The damage they do to plants has made them enemies of farmers and gardeners the world over, but from a zoological standpoint they are a very successful group of organisms. Their success is in part due to the asexual reproduction capability of some species.
Adults ant are 10 to 12 mm long, marked with yellow, black, or white bands. Adults feed only on pollen, nectar, and honeydew. Larvae are about 12 mm long, wrinkled or slug-like in appearance, tappering to a point at the head. They are usually brown or green with whitish areas. Eggs are chalky white, with faint longitudinal ridges. Syrphids overwinter as pupae in the soil or above ground in leaves and plant material. Adults emerge in May and June and lay eggs on leaves and stems of plants infested with prey. Larvae feed for 7 to 10 days, then drop to the soil to pupate. A life cycle is completed in 16 to 28 days and there are 3 to 7 overlapping generations each year. Syrphid fly larvae feed on soft-bodied insects, particularly aphids. As many as 400 aphids may be consumed by one larva during its development.
The Escamoles contain between 40 and 60% protein, plus fats, vitamins and minerals. This is a much higher percentage than that of the protein of beef (17-21.5%) and chicken (0.2%). Source: virginiafruit.ento.vt.edu
200 grams of escamoles (ant eggs)
100 grams of finely chopped onion
1 clove of garlic, finely chopped
2 tablespoons epazote (disinfected and finely chopped)
1 serrano pepper, in small dices
1 tablespoon chopped cilantro
1 tablespoon butter
Guajillo Pepper Oil
1 piece of guajillo pepper, peeled, deveined and seedless
¼ cup corn oil
salt and pepper
To prepare the guajillo pepper, heat the oil at 70ºC, remove from heat and add the pepper and a pinch of salt. Let them form an infusion for about 20 minutes or until the temperature of the oil reaches about 30ºC. Grind, strain, and keep it for later.
Sauté the garlic, Serrano pepper, cilantro in a previously heated pan with butter and guajillo oil until it becomes transparent. Add the onion and cook it for another minute. Add the peeper and, finally, add the ant eggs, leaving them there for another three minutes. Add the epazote and season them with salt and pepper.