Our nation has one of the richest culinary cultures anywhere in the world, mostly because of the local and foreign influences in our cooking and dining. We boast of classic pot roasts, different barbeques, pies, and a myriad of delicacies know the world over.
Our gun culture and love of the outdoors also allows us to enjoy the occasional grouse, pheasant, quail, boar, and venison. Americans also love fishing, but not only as a sport — that fresh trout or salmon is always a welcome treat every now and then.
But we aren’t fully utilizing the resources that surround us. What if you get stranded in the woods without a knife? Without a gun? Without a cellphone or radio to call for help? Are you willing to wrangle a full-grown stag with your bare hands for the sake of sustenance?
People, there is another way. It’s an easier option when life or death is at stake, but an option that would never occur to you in better times.
Entomophagy, or the consumption of insects, is more commonplace than you can imagine. There are countries who are already consuming insects as a regular part of their diet and believe that insects are a better source of nutrients than any other food. That, and they’re also considered as aphrodisiacs (prooobably not true).
The first of a two-part series of articles, we’ll be discussing bugs you can eat when SHTF, and the indicators you should watch out for to make sure you don’t DIE when you eat one. Let’s go!
Grasshopper and Crickets
Grasshoppers and their cousins, the crickets, are packed with protein — and you can find them anywhere. These jumpy critters are dried, roasted, and processed into flour. Surprisingly, this protein-rich, flour has similar baking properties to regular all-purpose flour, and has a slightly nutty flavor, to boot.
Then again, you’re in the wild, scared for your life, and do not have the resources to make cricket flour and bake it to cricket bread. Just cook them well enough to kill any nematodes they might be carrying with them.
Catching grasshoppers and crickets are easier early in the morning when they move slower. You can find crickets in damp, dark places like under logs, rocks, and other shaded areas. It’s also best to check grass, shrubs, and trees. Try shaking branches above a shirt, a jar, or any piece of fabric to catch any that might fall into it.
When and Where: Grasshoppers are easiest to catch in the early mornings when they move more slowly. Look for crickets in damp, dark places first: under rocks, logs, and other large objects. Also check in tall grasses, shrubs and trees. Try shaking branches above a shirt, sleeping bag or another piece of fabric, and see if any edibles fall onto it.
Before eating them, make sure to pull off their heads and entrails — the entrails are edible but are a risk for parasite transmission. If you don’t want to catch it, make sure they’re cooked properly.
Roast them on a pan, or skewer and roast them over a fire if you don’t have one. Get them to a good crisp, and they’ll go down easier.
Most grasshopper and cricket species are safe to eat, but there are a few exceptions. It’s best to avoid any brightly-colored kinds, such as the eastern lubber (commonly found in southern states like Texas).
Ants can be found… everywhere. The nasty buggers even show up in places you don’t want them to be!
Just look at the ground you’re walking on, and you’re guaranteed to find a long, straight, battalion of ants. Following them will surely lead you straight to their nest.
An effective way to collect them is to disturb their nest with a stick. Go to town on it, don’t be shy. When they come out to defend their mound, collect the ants using the end of the stick. Proceed in dipping the stick into a container of water to drown them. Keep repeating this process until you have a few thousand.
Once you’ve had a sufficient amount, boil them for about six minutes to neutralize the acid they produce in their bodies.
Termites are fantastic sources of protein, and their diet of wood makes them less susceptible to parasites compared to other insects.
Sexually-mature adults grow wings and fly, making them difficult to catch. Larvae, worker, soldiers, nymphs, and queen termites aren’t so mobile and are easier to collect.
Finding termites is easy — just crack an old, rotting log open, or simply look under it. There’s guaranteed to be lots of them for the taking.
You’ll want to roast them in a pan, get them all nice and crispy. Just imagine yourself eating a pan-full of fried… rice.
Grubs are one of the most dreaded of insects to look at, much less consume. Grubs are the larval stage of beetles and are common fare in other countries. Some grubs, like mealworms, are small and crunchy — some grubs, on the other hand, are big, fat, and juicy. The latter usually belong to the larger species of beetles, such as rhinoceros beetles.
They can easily be found inside rotting logs, under the bark of living trees, and under old leaves decomposing vegetation.
Skewer these babies with a long stick and cook them over an open fire until their crispy. You’ll find that their insides are rather soft and juicy. Yum.
BONUS: NON-INSECT BUGS THAT TASTE LIKE SEAFOOD!
Nicknamed roly-polies, potato bugs, sow bugs, and pill bugs, woodlice are not true insects. Woodlice are actually terrestrial crustaceans, no different to shrimps besides the fact that shrimps live in water.
Wood lice’s crustacean heritage make them taste like actual shrimps and are even called land shrimp at times.
Foraging for woodlice is easy — overturn rocks, logs, and sift through dead and decaying matter. You’re sure to find some.
Before eating them, make sure to boil them for a long while to make sure they’re safe to eat. Woodlice carry nematodes (parasitic roundworms), and you don’t want those inside you.
Once you’re sure they’re cooked through, just get rid of the water and wolf them down.
A common street food in China and Thailand, scorpions can also be found in states with dry climates like California, New Mexico, Arizona, and other Southwestern states.
Scorpions taste like crab. Not a terrible thing to think of when you consider eating something that can kill you.
Getting rid of the scorpion’s stinger isn’t the last step before you can eat it — you’ll have to make sure it’s cooked through. The scorpion’s venom is produced in the top two segments of its tail. The cooking process nullifies the venom’s deadly properties (but there is a possibility for you to develop an allergic reaction to it).
Scorpions live in subterranean dens, you need to find a den and dig them out if you want one for dinner. Dens are usually located under rocks or logs.
Dig a hole large enough to accommodate a container like a jar in front of the den. When the little-venomous-land-scorpion comes out at night, it’ll fall into the jar and be unable to climb out. Murder the little bugger while it’s inside and get rid of the stinger.
Roast over a fire or hot coals until well browned and crispy. Bon appétit!
Next week, we’ll go over more critters that are excellent sources of sustenance when you’re just down on your luck. See you then!