For those of us who are older than eight years old and happen to live along the East Coast, the word “cicada” brings a lot of things to mind: incessant buzzing, teeming masses covering trees and clogging up gutters and just general annoyance. But instead of getting bugged by the Brood II perennial cicadas, slated to emerge from their long slumber this spring, perhaps you’d like to try eating them.
Caitlyn Kim over at the Radiolab blog brings up the novel idea with the help of the author of Cicada-Licious, a cicada-centric cookbook. As a graduate student in 2004, Jenna Jadin studied the little critters during the Brood X emergence in 2004. Her specialty? The nutritional value of a cicada, which meant eating a whole lot of insects.
“Cicadas are really, really easy to catch. They just sit there. They don’t have any defensive mechanisms,” Jadin explains to Radiolab.
The best time to gather your cicadas for a pie or perhaps a nice stir-fry is when they first show up, as that’s when they’re the most succulent.
“They’re a grub basically. They haven’t formed their exoskeleton yet,” she says. “They haven’t hardened. Wings haven’t unfurled.”
Otherwise grab the females, as they’re “full of fat and eggs.” Yum…?
The first step is to boil the cicadas, she suggests, and then decide what to do next — including dry roasting, which can give the bugs a nutty flavor or covering them in chocolate which, duh, chocolate is delicious. But be careful if you have allergies to shellfish, as cicada’s chitin exoskeletons are made from the same stuff as many shellfish. Nut allergies also may not react well to eating cicadas.
Then there’s the fact that this group of insects has been dwelling below ground since 1996, and as such, could’ve absorbed whatever it is people have been dumping in the ground since then. Enjoy in moderation, in other words, if you don’t want a hefty dose of pesticides in your system.
If you have any cicada recipes you’re willing to share, or other uses for the ubiquitous bugs, send us an email at email@example.com with the subject line, CICADAS.
The cicadas are coming — grab a plate [Radiolab blog]