Eatable Bugs

Jack Deatherage, Jr.

A cousin told me a story about gathering night crawlers in his backyard. He noticed his neighbors, a family imported from an Asian land, also gathering the worms in their yard. "Where are you going fishing?" He asked them.

"Weíre not." Came a puzzled reply.

"Then why are you catching night crawlers?" asked my cousin, now also puzzled.

"To eat them. Why are you gathering them?"

Neither worm hunter quite believed the otherís reason for catching worms. My cousin knew worms were excellent for catching delicious fish. His neighbors knew worms were a good meal in themselves. After all, they had eaten similar worms in their native country.

The cousin thought the Asians were primitive savages, uneducated in what a civilized human should eat. The Asian neighbors thought he was an ignorant American without a clue as to what could be eaten.

My 9th grade French teacher claimed a bowl of mashed maggots was among her favorite dishes. I, and most of the boys in my class, had a crush on this woman until she made that statement. Years later I watched people on TV eat all kinds of bugs and worms. They seemed to enjoy the critters.

Iíve heard of a night-time raid on a cornfield and the campfire-roasted ears that were eaten with great relish in the dead of night. Then the daylight discovery of worm tunnels all through the naked cobs. "Best-tasting corn I ever had. Must have been the worms!" commented one of the raiders.

Have I been missing something? Worms, slugs, bugs and beetles work my

garden harder than I do. I used to spray poisons, but I gave that up and went organic. For the last few years Iíve picked the crawlies off my plants and tossed them to the fish I keep outside. Should I be eating them instead?

Iíd say the slugs got more out of my tomatoes than I did the last 3 years. The cabbage loopers and worms certainly got most of the cabbage and broccoli! Squash bugs did in the zucchini and flea beetles seemed to be everywhere.

I once thought to pickle hibiscus buds. But our hibiscuses were 11" blossoms of white, pink or red that drew Japanese beetles from several towns away. Iíd notice the cigar-shaped buds early in the morning covered with beetles. At noon the petals were unfurled with cigarette butt-sized holes all through them. It didnít matter how many beetles I picked off and killed, no flower went unmarked.

Aphids feed on a variety of flowers and vegetables. I understand that ants sometimes place these bugs on plants and watch over them like shepherds. The ants then feed on a nectar the aphid produces. (Iíd call the nectar something else, but the editors wouldnít print it.) Obviously the aphids produce something useful to the ants. Could it be useful to us?

Do cabbage worms and loopers taste like cabbage or broccoli? Would rose petal-stuffed Japanese beetles taste like roses? (I donít care for rose petals, though my dogs seem to enjoy them.) Could the crunch of their exoskeletons become the crunch of a potato chip?

As a child I ate a bowl of homemade noodle soup that had weevils in it. I ate it because my dad told me to and he was eating it. The bugs didnít kill me. But I sometimes wonder if they did something to my mind.

Stir-fried cabbage worms? Maybe with enough bean sprouts to hide them? Couldnít be much worse than tofu!

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