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Crickets, other insects could meet global protein needs

2012_0701_RamaswamyCooking


Sonny Ramaswamy, director of the National Institute of Food and Agriculture,
cooks cricket curry at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival in Washington earlier this month. (USDA)


Most Americans think of insects as pests, and Sonny Ramaswamy, director of the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, has spent most of his career trying to reduce their population in crops. But when the land-grant colleges took exhibit space at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival in Washington this month, the director of the NIFA gave a demonstration on how to cook curried crickets.

The demo was very popular, according to USDA officials, especially with the small boys who attended the festival.

In choosing to cook crickets, Ramaswamy showed himself to be in the avant garde of food trends. Nicola Twilley, an adjunct professor at Columbia University who also writes the blog Edible Geography, said in a presentation at the Aspen Ideas Festival this month that “microranching” of insects is one of the next trends in agriculture. And in terms of consumption, insects are where sushi was 25 years ago, Twilley said.

Ramaswamy, who spent his research career as an entomologist, explained his decision to promote cricket consumption in an email to The Hagstrom Report.

“In the western world we consume large quantities of shrimp, crab, lobster, and other arthropods (joint-footed animals) and invertebrates (animals without backbones), and yet, we are squeamish about eating insects, which are just another arthropod,” he said.

“In many other parts of the world, people consume all manner of insects and their relatives, and constitute a significant proportion of their protein source. We might want to consider insects and their relatives as part of the approach to meeting our protein needs as the population explosion continues.”

Ramaswamy shared with The Hagstrom Report the recipe for curried crickets that the prepared at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival.

Curried Crickets


Ingredients:
  • Approximately 100 crickets (or other insects), freshly frozen and washed
  • One medium sized red onion
  • One-eighth cup chopped cilantro
  • One fresh Roma/Italian plum tomato, chopped
  • One-eighth cup chopped fresh mint
  • One quarter jalapeño or serrano pepper, seeded and chopped finely
  • One teaspoon of fresh grated ginger
  • Two cloves of garlic, chopped finely
  • One teaspoon of curry powder
  • Salt to taste
  • Two tablespoons of olive oil

Preparation:
  1. Heat the olive oil in a saucepan on high heat; turn down heat to medium-high and sauté onions until translucent (do not overcook — need to be crunchy).
  2. Add cilantro, mint, ginger, garlic and sauté for a couple minutes.
  3. Add tomatoes and sauté for a couple minutes (again do not overcook; needs to be crunchy).
  4. Add crickets and sauté until the crickets abdomens turn yellowish (do not overcook; needs to be crunchy).
  5. Separately, bring to boil one cup of basmati rice with two cups of water, turn stove to simmer, cover pot, and let cook for about 15 minutes.
  6. Serve the curried cricket over rice.

Where to buy crickets
Medium size or 5-week-old crickets recommended
Buy live – Freeze when you get them home

  • Local Indian grocery stores
  • Large pet stores (Petco, PetSmart — sold as food for reptiles)
  • Online – They ship live; freeze upon delivery
Fluker’s Cricket Farm (Ramaswamy's source for crickets.)
Bassetts Cricket Ranch

More on entomophagy (using insects as food)