James Clarke Masthead
July 14 2014 at 09:11

"Waiter! There’s a fly in my soup!” “It’s not a fly, Sir. It’s a stink bug and it comes with the compliments of our Venda chef.”

According to Joburg ecologist Cathy Dzerefos, who at the University of the Witwatersrand has just completed her doctorate thesis on edible insects, stink bugs are nutritious and can add flavour to stews.

In Venda they are not just used for flavouring, they are eaten like peanuts.

The bug, known as thongolifha, is of the species Encosternum delegorguei, and is greenish and smaller than a matchbox. It is known among entomologists as the “edible stink bug”.

It’s a convenient “bush food” in that it swarms in winter when the other popular bush food, the mopani worm (a caterpillar known as mashonzha), is absent.

Cathy, in a recent talk to a wildlife meeting in Rustenberg in the North West, pointed out that insects in many parts of southern Africa are important as a source of protein as well as being regarded as cultural delicacies.

Most popular are worms (particularly caterpillars), locusts and termites.

Stink bugs are placed in a bucket with a small amount of warm water and stirred with a wooden spoon.

This causes them to release their defensive secretions which are so overpowering that one has to hold one’s breath and close one’s eyes to protect them. After a while, warm water is added and the insects are rinsed – a process that is repeated three times before the insects are boiled in water, which kills them.

The bugs are then sun-dried and placed in mealie bags.

They sound delicious, sort of.

I am not sure what Professor Tim Noakes (“eat more fat”) or Professor Lionel Opie (“Don’t, for Pete’s sake”) would make of insect eating, but locusts and termites are full of fat.

In southern Africa they are eaten by the handful, especially flying ants (termites). These are caught by placing a bowl under a pile of twigs next to the exit hole of the “ant” heap.

As the termites swarm from the exit they become ensnared among the twigs, their wings drop off and they fall into the bowl from which they cannot climb out.

They are then simmered and stored. When you eat them, the fat sticks to the roof of your mouth.

In Guatemala, termites are braaied with salt and lime juice and said to taste like pork rinds.

Throughout the world, caterpillars are eaten not as a desperate measure but as an enjoyable food.

In Colombia, ants are sold like popcorn in cinemas.

Bee grubs that live on a diet of royal jelly, pollen and honey are delicious sautéed in butter.

Centipedes are a street food in China.

Cicadas (Christmas beetles) are said to have soft, juicy bodies.

Cockroaches, after being fed on fresh fruits and vegetables, can be eaten toasted, fried, sautéed or boiled. Crickets, similarly.

Even dung beetles are said to be tasty when fried.

Earthworms are high in protein and iron and are eaten in South America.

If you find a fly in your soup, you might indeed call the waiter but if you find maggots don’t worry. Their juice is similar to some fish oils.

Mealworm? Try them boiled, sautéed, roasted or fried. Apparently they taste like a “nutty shrimp”.

Silkworms are a popular dish in Korea.

A game ranger friend who catches and eats scorpions, raw (after removing the tail tip), says they are more delicious if one skewers a few of them and then fries them. He says they taste like shellfish.

If you’d like to know more, Cathy’s |e-mail is cathy@dzerefos.com though much of my information came from the website edibug.wordpress.com


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