the home grown institute
A couple of months ago there was a post on the PUFN list serve (Philadelphia Urban Farmers Network) asking if anyone had an interest or expertise in the area of edible bugs. Michelle, the special events coordinator at Morris Arboretum was planning their Big Bug exhibit (April through August). She and some of her colleagues had an idea to have a July evening soirée featuring edible insects.
I've been intrigued by the idea of edible bugs for years. I had tried, unsuccessfully, to get someone to present a class on Entomophagy - the formal word for the eating of insects - at The Home Grown Institute last March. I learned from a TED talk by Marcel Dicke that 80% of the world population eats insects and that there are more than 1700 species of insects that are eaten. We in North America are one of the few regions of the world that does not consume insects regularly for snacks and meals. Marcel gave some compelling reasons why that should change.
It turns out that Marcel is not the only one trying to change the way we feel about eating bugs. Dr. Florence Dunkel of Montana State University has been organizing a Bug Buffet for the community for 25 years. In the Netherlands, the innovative Minister of Agriculture recently hosted all the EU Ministers of Agriculture at a fancy restaurant where they all dined on insects. And In January of 2012, The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations met in Rome... On their agenda was Assessing the Potential of Insects as Food and Feed in Assuring Food Security." They left with an active working group and  a communications strategy to network in the private and public sector. They are planning a global conference on edible insects for 2014.
There are many nutritional and environmental arguments for eating insects but even in the face of all the data, many people I've been talking with just say "yuck!" In the movie Bugs for Breakfast, we learn that what's disgusting and what's delicious depends more on your culture than your stomach. Food and language are the cultural habits we learn first, and change comes only with great effort.
So, I responded to Michelle at the Arboretum and offered to feature edible bugs at next Home Grown Institute Up Close & Personal workshop June. The caterer, Josh of Company's Coming, has taken on the challenge with gusto and will prepare a half dozen delectable dishes for the July event at the Arboretum (See sample recipe in box). He and I will do some experimental cooking together later this month to fine-tune the recipes. Participants at The Home Grown Institute June workshop learn and cook and taste and will then be invited to be docents at Morris event in July to help others have their food culture ideas challenged.
Will you join us? I dare you...
Sarah Gabriel is the managing Director of The Home Grown Institute and is evolving her own homestead as a small demonstration site. For more information, visit
Cricket Fritters
This Indian inspired dish is a good entry level dish for a novice insectivore.  The spice and crunch of the fritter accent the subtle nuttiness of the crickets.
7 ounces of unbleached wheat flour
1 cup water cold
1 cup blanched and chilled crickets coarsely chopped
1 tsp. chili paste
1/3 cup minced red onion
6 chives cut into 1 inch strips
1/2 cup organic frozen corn thawed
1/4 cup ginger sautéed in one tablespoon of canola oil for one minute
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1 12 oz can of coconut milk
1 tablespoon curry powder
1 tablespoon garam masala
juice 1 lime
1/4 cup minced cilantro
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup apricot preserves
Additional cilantro for garnish
1. Combine Ingredients in a bowl and mix gently till well incorporated
2. Chill batter in the fridge 15 minutes
3. Heat 1 gallon of canola oil over medium heat till 350 degrees Fahrenheit
4. Drop batter into oil gently one tablespoon at a time
5. Remove from oil and drain on paper towels
6. Serve with lime wedges, torn cilantro, and sauce
Combine all ingredients except cilantro  in a sauce pan and simmer over medium low heat for 10 minutes, remove from heat, stir in cilantro.
Edible Bugs? I Dare you..
Wednesday, May 8, 2013